Last year, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Kelo v. City of New London that a government body could use its eminent domain authority to promote economic development and transfer property from one private entity to another.
The 5-4 decision was controversial and drew strong negative reaction from both conservative and liberal groups. But the decision left open to each state the opportunity to set limits on the legislative powers of its Legislature and municipalities in defining the proper use of eminent domain.
The majority cited the 2004 Michigan Supreme Court decision County of Wayne v. Hathcock as an example of setting limits on eminent domain. In that decision, the Michigan court ruled against the county using its eminent domain power to acquire additional land for the proposed Pinnacle Aeropark development.
The state Legislature has placed a constitutional amendment on the November ballot, Proposal 4, that builds on the Hathcock decision in setting limits on eminent domain. It provides that government compensate owners at 125 percent of market value when the property is a principal residence, restricts taking public property for transfer to a private entity, shifts the burden of proof on defining public use to the government and protects against future legislative or judicial actions that would jeopardize property rights.
We understand the concern about overreaching government and the misuse of eminent domain. But we also know that there are times when eminent domain is necessary for economic development.
The Wayne v. Hathcock decision, which is now law in Michigan, goes a long way toward protecting private property rights without overstepping and limiting a necessary government prerogative for the general welfare. The proposed amendment would create barriers to eminent domain that could have serious consequences for future urban development.
We urge a 'no' vote on Proposal 4.
Royal Oak MI Mirror: http://www.hometownlife.com