PORTAGE, Mich. (WOOD) — Crossroads Mall is suing the Kalamazoo County bus system for using its roads and not paying for it.
Earlier this year, the bus system said mall management wanted to charge Metro $50,000 a year to access the mall’s property, which is included in the bus system’s third-busiest routes.
Now, the mall is suing over the use of its property and is asking for $2 million. The lawsuit names the Kalamazoo County Transportation Authority, Kalamazoo County, the city of Portage — where the mall is located — and Central County Transportation Authority.
Crossroads General Manager Marni Sawicki told News 8 that the suit could have been avoided if talks with the transit operators didn’t stall.
“We kept trying to meet with the transit authority,” Sawicki said. “We kept asking. The meetings we did have were very … kind of like, ‘Nope, we’re not going to do anything. We don’t plan on helping with anything.’ ‘I’m good at saying no’ is what he said a lot.”
The lawsuit claims the defendants have used the mall’s property since 2006, when it first installed a bus stop there, without the consent of Crossroads Mall or its predecessors and without an easement. Crossroads Mall bought the property in 2021.
“They like to say it’s a destination place, which is what we wanted it to be,” Sawicki said. “However, three buses an hour, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. every day — (the passengers) are not coming here. There are people that get off the bus, but the majority of them are waiting to get on another bus to go somewhere else.”
The suit claims the bus system intentionally misused governmental authority and does not have immunity under the Michigan Tort Liability Act.
“Private road or not… it’s a government entity that has just taken our property, used it how they want to. Then when we asked for it to be compensated to help improve it, we were told no,” Sawicki said.
Along with lower property taxes and lost business revenue, the lawsuit also claims 3,136 buses going through the property every month caused at least $2 million in damages to vehicles, landscaping, roadways and what’s below the concrete.
“Specifically, drainage damage, like the sinkholes,” Sawicki said. “Things that are from the heavy weight of the buses on the property is where we started to go, ‘Wait a minute.’ This isn’t just your normal paving… We’re going to have to tear it up and do the pipes and do whatever underneath because of the weight of the buses that have been on here.”
Metro buses take tens of thousands of trips on Crossroads Mall’s property each year, the lawsuit states. Sawicki says the mall wants to continue having the bus system’s third-busiest routes stop there but also wants those in charge to pay their fair share.
“Public transportation is such a key part to a sense of place, to people getting around, to my mall being successful,” Sawicki said. “I certainly don’t want them to leave the property. We do have people who get to work on the bus… We love that. We love that piece. But we can’t continue to shoulder all of the burden of that.
Sawicki previously told News 8 if an agreement is not reached, drop-offs could be moved to Mall Road and Romence Road.
Kalamazoo County and the executive director for both transportation authorities said they could not comment Wednesday since they had not yet been served the lawsuit. Neither could the city of Portage because it was still finding legal representation for the case.