Arbor Update

Ann Arbor Area Community News

Election 2006: Proposal 4

6. November 2006 • Juliew
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Proposal 06-4
A PROPOSED CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT TO PROHIBIT GOVERNMENT FROM TAKING PRIVATE PROPERTY BY EMINENT DOMAIN FOR CERTAIN PRIVATE PURPOSES

The proposed constitutional amendment would:

  • Prohibit government from taking private property for transfer to another private individual or business for purposes of economic development or increasing tax revenue.
  • Provide that if an individual’s principal residence is taken by government for public use, the individual must be paid at least 125% of property’s fair market value.
  • Require government that takes a private property to demonstrate that the taking is for a public use; if taken to eliminate blight, require a higher standard of proof to demonstrate that the taking of that property is for a public use.
  • Preserve existing rights of property owners.


  1. the Michigan Land Use Institute has a good article on this, and why it might not be as groovy as it sounds.
    http://www.mlui.org/print.asp?fileid=17102


       —tim    Nov. 6 '06 - 02:56AM    #
  2. I read the Citizen’s Research Council article on it, and agreed, but not necessarily for the reasons they state.

    Primarily I support Proposal 4 because I believe that eminent domain has been broadly misused in the past and recently. Poletown is the greatest example of government gone wrong in an effort to broaden the tax base. Michigan case law has established an excellent check for that sort of government taking, much better than anywhere else in the country, so that Poletown is likely never to happen again (right?). But I don’t believe that case law is enough of a protection for Michigan citizens. Further, the penalty (125%) and onus on government to prove merit to the community means that eminent domain will be used only for truly worthwhile projects, and will be in the constitution, away from tampering by the legislature.

    Currently the city of Benton Harbor is undergoing a friendly ‘urban renewal’, courtesy of its neighboring city of St. Joseph. While eminent domain does not figure prominently in the shenanigans, it is the sort of thing that government has been using eminent domain for (the Kelo decision in Michigan case law may have been an effective block to the use of eminent domain).

    Essentially, the city of St. Joseph is forcing Benton Harbor to give up its ‘slum’ waterfront for redevelopment into luxury condos, funded by Whirlpool and its cronies. It’s a complicated land deal, and is full of twists and turns (HUD and a developer from Ann Arbor are involved in one phase), but it’s dirty through and through. Benton Harbor is upwards of 80% black and poor, St. Joe is mostly white and relatively affluent. Local government is complicit in making it all happen, maybe even thinking it is good for the community – but it’s not if Benton Harbor is gentrified, the taxes go up and force poor folk out (as happens time and again in other communities) and St. Joe ends up annexing the property anyway in a few decades (as is written into the agreement).

    I suppose, even though I’m trying to get into government, that I don’t believe government is living up to its responsibilities to protect the rights of citizens and act in the best interests of as many as possible, but has become completely beholden to vested special interests and powermongers in many of our marginal communities -and possibly the more affluent like Ann Arbor as well.


       —Pete Schermerhorn    Nov. 6 '06 - 06:02AM    #
  3. “the penalty (125%) and onus on government to prove merit to the community means that eminent domain will be used only for truly worthwhile projects”

    ”[the government] has become completely beholden to vested special interests and powermongers in many of our marginal communities -and possibly the more affluent like Ann Arbor as well.”

    I hope this isn’t too cynical but I think the increased onus and penalties you refer to only require greater vested interest by the accused powermongers in order to implement eminent domain.
    Said another way, it doesn’t eliminate the exclusive powermonger club, it just raises the membership fee.


       —Scott TenBrink    Nov. 6 '06 - 11:23AM    #
  4. If we elect judges who are fair and are not corrupted by money or special interests then we may not need any more laws than what we have.

    Please take a look at www.a2buzz.org and see how a judge in Washtenaw rules.

    Srini


       —Srini    Nov. 6 '06 - 01:52PM    #
  5. I support Prop 4. It is true that the Michigan Supreme Court has reversed its infamous “Poletown” decision, which allowed the condemnation of private property for private developments. However, there is no guarantee that the Court could not change its mind again.

    The Legislature passed a package of bills in September on this topic. However, this package only goes into effect if Prop 4 is adopted.

    NIMBYs should vote YES on this proposal.
    Developersymps should vote NO.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 6 '06 - 01:56PM    #
  6. Pete –
    I’m personally against unnecessary constitutional amendments, and I think Prop 4 is attempting to create a constitutional fix for a problem that has already been addressed judicially (through Hathcock v. County of Wayne) and legislatively (the 125% cost, for example, was either already passed by the legislature this year, or in the pipeline and likely to pass; I don’t have the bill reference offhand).

    Also, I find it unfortunate that the example you’re using to show need for this proposal doesn’t actually seem to be something that would be affected. While eminent domain does not figure prominently in the shenanigans,... So why then should we create a fix to eminent domain in response? Shouldn’t we try to fix the actual problem, rather than one which merely smells similar?

    I agree that eminent domain has been sorely misused in the past, such as in Poletown locally, and Kelo elsewhere. However, I think we should not overlook the possibility for eminent domain to be applied for positive means. Consider, if you will, Hawaii Housing Authority v. Midkiff .

    The abuses of eminent domain that we’ve seen have in large part already been addressed in Michigan, and the legislature has shown momentum towards fixing the remaining abuses. Now is not the time for a constitutional amendment that will only cast confusion onto all application of eminent domain and force the courts to spend more time unraveling things.


       —Murph.    Nov. 6 '06 - 02:04PM    #
  7. “Further, the penalty (125%) and onus on government to prove merit to the community means that eminent domain will be used only for truly worthwhile projects”

    While Pete may be correct about the abuse of eminent domain in Benton Harbor, the vast majority of projects involving eminent domain are public projects for public benefit including every day projects like roads, sidewalks and water and sewer lines. If the constitutional amendment eliminates the possibility of using eminent domain for private purposes, what’s served by slapping a 25% premium on every project, especially when that’s money coming out of every taxpayers pocket?


       —John Q.    Nov. 6 '06 - 05:20PM    #
  8. The 125% of fair market value payment (I’m not sure why it should be called a “penalty”) only applied in cases where where the property to be taken is the owner’s private residence, not in general. I support paying over market value for primary residences, on the grounds that, if the owner only valued the property as much as market value, they would have sold it already. (Yes, this goes for all properties, but I’m biased towards people’s homes. Sorry.)


       —Murph.    Nov. 6 '06 - 06:54PM    #
  9. Murph, what the Legislature has done only takes effect if Prop 4 passes. I didn’t discover this until I read an article in the Washtenaw Legal News.


       —David Cahill    Nov. 7 '06 - 12:09AM    #