There has been plenty of legal wrangling over Ambassador Bridge owner Matty Moroun’s desire to block the new Gordie Howe Bridge and build a second bridge right next to the Ambassador.
Across the Detroit River, the city of Windsor has taken its complaint with Moroun all the way up to Canada’s Supreme Court.
The future of one of Windsor's oldest neighborhoods is at stake.
According to the Windsor Star’s Dave Battagello, this dispute is years in the making.
He tells us there’s a neighborhood near the bridge with a lot of nice homes that the Morouns have been eyeing for some time.
Over the last few years, “The Morouns started buying some of these nicer homes one by one and they started letting them rot, and eventually they would board them up,” Battagello says.
He tells us that families in the area slowly started to move away as more homes were bought and boarded up by the Morouns, a tactic Battagello calls “essentially ... blockbusting.”
“It eventually reached a point where it was not really a livable neighborhood anymore,” Battagello says. And while there are about a half-dozen families still living there, the rest of the homes “have been boarded up and they actually have a chain link fence on the whole block around these homes.”
The city of Windsor took legal action against the Morouns in an attempt to force them to maintain the homes, but the family has other plans for the property. According to Battagello, the Morouns took the issue to federal court and eventually won an appeal against the action.
“The federal appeals court in Canada indicated to the Morouns that they were a federal entity and they had every right to do what they were doing,” Battagello says, essentially overturning the federal court’s initial ruling in favor of the city.
“The city’s only option left was to go to Canada’s Supreme Court, which they did this spring,” he says.
The Supreme Court of Canada decided last week that they would hear the city of Windsor’s case, which Battagello says is “basically an appeal of the appeal.”
According to Battagello, the Morouns’ main attraction to the area has to do with secondary truck inspection. He explains that for decades now, trucks selected at the border for secondary inspection have been required to drive to a plaza about a mile away for the procedure.
The Morouns want to build a new secondary truck plaza in this neighborhood between 60 and 100 acres in size, “with obviously an intent to maybe even expand it further someday,” Battagello says. “So that’s the fear, is that our neighborhoods on the west end will eventually be just one concrete plaza.”
Battagello tells us the Canadian Border Services Agency has indicated in the past that an inspection plaza right at the foot of the bridge would be preferable for security reasons, but have remained silent on this specific case.
He says that the opposition to the Moroun family’s plan isn’t so much based on the plaza itself, but more the fear of what might come next.
“It’s the fear of the unknown,” he says, “that if you give the Morouns this much today, they’ll be back tomorrow taking the next steps, next block, next group of homes on the city’s west end.”
Battagello tells us that the Supreme Court of Canada will hear the city’s appeal within the next year, but a final decision may be as much as two years away.
– Ryan Grimes, Stateside