A Gas Station Eminent Domain Case Finally Leads to a Favorable Result

Although the article is called “A Sad Tale”, the end result was fair to the owner and to the government.

Sometimes a condemnation and the often slow process of litigation is required simply in order to obtain a fair result for all.  It is not the fault of the government or the owner, but we should all be delighted that we have such a fair system.
 
Article is attached below.
 

Injustice Remedied: Notice of Claims in Condemnation

Lawyers Weekly Article

Injustice Remedied: Notice of Claims in Condemnation

 

The Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act ("UCPA"), MCL 213.55(3)(a) requires condemning agencies to submit "good faith offers" to purchase before initiating lawsuits to acquire property. In these offers, agencies often fail to consider key information that should increase compensation, such as losses to the business or remainder of the property.  In 1996, legislation placed a heavy burden on owners to correct the agencies' omissions of such information.  If owners could not produce detailed writings explaining additional claims by strict statutory deadlines, the claims were barred.  Because business losses, partial taking and other just compensation issues are difficult to calculate in the prescribed period, many owners never received compensation they justly deserved. To create a more level field, the 2006 amendment to the statute and Court of Appeals opinion has restored fairness to this process.

The valuation process is difficult and complex. The UCPA requires that even a valuation of a vacant lot must include  a full appraisal conforming to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice.  If an agency needs to take a business's entire parcel, the solution is relatively simple--pay to relocate the business or purchase it in its entirety.  For instance, if MDOT needs only a small strip of land to expand a road, it may offer a price based on acreage alone, not realizing that strip has value to the business as its primary means of ingress and egress.

An agency must submit a good faith offer to purchase an owners' property before resorting to judicial condemnation. MCL 213.55(1). If the offer leaves out "items of compensable property or damage," an owner must submit additional claims in writing to the agency or compensation for those damages is barred forever. MCL 213.55(3).

The original MCL 213.55(3) oppressed owners in three ways. 1996 PA 474, §5, as amended by 2006 PA 439. First, it had strict deadlines, requiring an owner to file additional claims 90 days after receiving a good faith offer or 60 days after service of the condemnation complaint. Second, the court could extend these deadlines, but only once, and only if the "rights of the agency are not prejudiced by the delay." Id. Third, and most salient, the owner's claim had to "provide sufficient information and detail to enable the agency to evaluate the validity of the claim and to determine its value."  Id.

Because it takes time and money to compile "sufficient information and detail," businesses often failed to meet these deadlines. In Novi v Woodson, 251 Mich App 614; 651 NW2d 448 (2002), the court barred owners' claims for business interruption because their writing only claimed "compensation for . . . 2. Business interruption avoidance damages and/or going concern damages."  Barring this claim reduced the Woodson's compensation by more than a third. They argued that the deadlines were impossible to meet, but the court gratingly stated they should have negotiated with the city for an extension. See also Carrier Creek Drain Drainage Dist v Land One, LLC, 269 Mich App 324, 327-329; 712 NW2d 168 (2005).

In 2006, as eminent domain reform fever gripped Michigan, voters amended the Constitution to limit "economic development" takings. Const 1963, art 10, §2.  On December 23, 2006, the Michigan Legislature, possibly spurned on by voter sentiment, amended MCL 213.55(3). 2006 PA 439. The new section extended the deadline for filing claims to 180 days after service of the complaint and allowed unlimited extensions for "reasonable cause." MCL 213.55(a), (c). Most importantly, while the statute still required "sufficient information and detail" for supplemental claims,

For any claim that has not fully accrued or is continuing in nature when the claim is filed, the owner shall provide information then reasonably available that would enable the agency to evaluate the claim, subject to the owner's continuing duty to supplement that information as it becomes available.

MCL 213.55(3)(c). This new standard evenly distributed the burden between condemnor and owner. No longer did owners have to produce detailed assessments on short notice. The statute also implemented a discovery process, under which the parties would exchange appraisals and the court would manage the process like discovery in any civil litigation. MCL 213.55(b), (d). Further, the statute protected agencies by requiring owners file supplemental claims at least 90 days before trial. MCL 213.55(c).

The Court of Appeals recently applied the amended MCL 213.55(3) in Dept of Transp v Pavlov Properties, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, decided December 16, 2010 (No 286926). In 2006, MDOT needed a 10-foot wide strip of land from the owner to build a freeway interchange. MDOT's good faith offer was $75,000 for the strip and did not consider relocation and business interruption. However, taking this strip would have cut off one of two driveways leading to the owners' truck equipment business. With no room for trucks to turn around, using one driveway for ingress and egress forced the owners to relocate. The owners bought a new parcel for $145,000 and notified MDOT of additional losses of "access, and damages due to business interruption, loss of business value, compensation for fixtures, cost to cure and related damages" and "damages related to acquisition of the second site in an attempt to continue their business activities uninterrupted."

In Pavlov, MDOT alleged these written notices did not provide "sufficient information and detail" under the old MCL 213.55(3), which it argued still applied given the timing of its lawsuit.  However, the Court of Appeals applied the statute retroactively, because the Legislature specifically intended to "remedy a perceived injustice" created by Woodson and Carrier Creek.  The Court of Appeals held the owners' claim met the new standard and allowed their additional claim for relocation and interruption.

Producing a detailed assessment of business value and the effect of a taking is an expensive, time-consuming process. The amended MCL 213.55(3) redistributes the burden in a more balanced fashion between the parties and provides the court with broader discretion to oversee a fair process.

Alan T. Ackerman is a partner in Ackerman Ackerman & Dynkowski, a Bloomfield Hills-based eminent domain and condemnation law firm. He has been aggressively fighting for the rights of landowners for more than 30 years. Alan is a member of the Federal Bar Association and is the past Chair of the ABA and Michigan Real Property Section Condemnation Committee.

 

Darius W. Dynkowski is a partner with the firm, having joined in 1996. He currently serves as the Group Vice Chair of the American Bar Association Section of Real Property Land Use and Environmental Group, and he sits on the Michigan State Board of Real Estate Appraisers.

 

Both Alan and Darius serve as adjunct professors at Michigan State University College of Law, teaching eminent domain. www.nationaleminentdomain.com

Michigan State University Extension Offers Outline Of Property Rights Claims

Kurt H. Schindler of the Michigan State University Extension Service has provided a short and accurate outline of claims for those suffering losses of their property rights other than in eminent domain proceedings.  Mr. Shindler’s analysis covers a number of Due Process land-use issues, and is well worth reading. 

 
There are many ways government regulation may tread on someone's property rights. Some of those are listed here:
  • The regulation is so much, that it results in "taking" one's property without just compensation - takings.
  • Failing to follow due process of law - due process.
  • The substance or content of the regulation exceeds what is appropriate subject matter for government to be regulating - substantive due process.
  • Failure to respect and follow the division of authority between the different parts of government - separation of powers.
This article will focus on due process. The state of Michigan has deligated certain powers to local government. For example, the authority to adopt a zoning ordinance is delegated to township, city, village, and county government through the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. That is the state statute that enables local government to adopt zoning. But with that authority comes certain procedures and steps which are designed to safeguard people's constitutional rights and to avoid abuse of power by government.

 

John Mogk Is Close To Bulls Eye In Recent Article

John Mogk is as close to accurate as one can get. Detroit needs redevelopment of its blighted areas. However to simply conclude that a reasonable constitutional amendment barring development for private use is in some way related to the clearance of blight is ill-founded.

 
The Michigan Constitution does not bar the acquisition of property in order to clear up and assemble the complete neighborhood. However, the concern that the Michigan Constitution in some way inhibits blight removal is not correct. Almost everything else John Mogk writes in his article is right on point. 
 
Finally, the city's vast amount of vacant land is not held in contiguous tracts, but scattered in checkerboard fashion over many miles of declining neighborhoods. The Michigan Constitution was amended in 2006 to prohibit the use of eminent domain to foster economic development, as it had been used for the city's major projects of the past. Detroit leaders must devise a way to assemble largely vacant areas into tracts that will attract major investment from inside and outside of the city.

Confusing Assessed Value With Fair Market Value

In reading a recent article from Ann Arbor.com, one would think the assessed value on a property in some way relates to fair-market value.

Nothing could be more inaccurate. There is a cap on assessed value, and the assessed value rate in Michigan often has no relationship at all to the fair-market value of property. This is not always the case, but frequently, the assessed value is far less than the fair-market value of property.

First, the assessed value does not always take into consideration the highest and best use of a property. Second, if a property is under-assessed, you will never hear from the property owner requesting an increase in taxes!

http://www.annarbor.com/news/owner-agrees-to-sell-two-properties-on-south-division-to-make-way-for-new-university-of-michigan-dor/

David Copi originally bought 541 S. Division in 1987 for $110,000. According to Ann Arbor records, the 0.9-acre property has an assessed value of $204,300, which indicates a market value of $408,600. The property at 543 S. Division, which also is 0.9 acres, has an assessed value of $161,900, indicating a market value of $323,800. Copi uses the properties as an income property, renting it to U-M undergraduates.

Copi said his father received above market value for the two houses.

The lease for one house expired last month, and Copi has not rented it again. Leases for the other property expire in September, although it is possible the university could ask tenants to move out in August.

Did The Newspaper Mistake DRIC Activities?

 

The May 23, 2013 article in the Windsor Star states that Canada is ready to start buying property in Del Ray.

Upon reading the article, one must query whether the money is delegated for property acquisition or simply for planning the proposed project.

Canada, and so many of us in the United States, only wish the Bridge Project could get moving. However, an appropriate and legal process must be initiated. $25 Million Dollars may be used for planning, but there is nothing authorizing anyone or any institution or government the power of condemnation; at least not yet.

http://www.windsorstar.com/Feds+budget+delray+land/8453232/story.html

The Canadian government has dedicated $25 million in its recent budget to start buying property in Delray for the new Detroit River bridge, while U.S. federal administrators debate the size and scope of the customs plaza, Canada's Consul General Roy Norton said Wednesday, May 22.

The long-awaited downriver Detroit River International Crossing project is underway following Washington's approval six weeks ago of a presidential permit, Norton told a gathering of the Michigan District Council of the Urban Land Institute who were in Windsor for a tour of the new $1.4-billion Herb Gray Parkway.

"They (U.S. officials) are getting their ducks in a row on what they need for a customs plaza - and that correlates on how much they are willing to spend," he said. "Some feel they need the earth, moon and stars and others are saying that costs are more than they are willing to pay. We expect within months that will be sorted out."

The Next Division In The Boulder Community

This blog has frequently written about the intention of the Boulder City Council to acquire the Xcel electric utility servicing the community.

In its most recent foray into the acquisition, the City Council assigned its City Manager the authority to select a committee to determine the feasibility and monitor the progress of the project. How foolish. All the City Council is doing is setting its City Manager up to either choose individuals who would be favorable to the City Council’s position or we may find the City Manager out of a job.

Realistically, the City Council must figure out a way to try to make the process as neutral as possible. We admire its confidence in the City Manager, and admire more the City Manager’s willingness to take on the responsibility. However, do not be shocked if there is a new City Manager in Boulder, Colorado if the appointed committee arrives at a determination not acceptable to the City Council.   

http://www.dailycamera.com/energy/ci_23049442/boulder-enters-next-phase-municipalization

As required by the charter, the city will hire an independent consultant to review its earlier analysis, which found that Boulder could get more than half its energy from renewable resources, mostly wind power, at rates similar to or lower than Xcel Energy's.

That consultant will be hired by City Manager Jane Brautigam rather than by city staffers who have been working on the Energy Future project to ensure neutrality, Brautigam said.

At the same time, city officials will be further refining their modeling, including soliciting prices from potential wind providers and incorporating information from a new resource plan recently filed by Xcel at the Public Utilities Commission, which shows greater increases in coal prices than Boulder had originally modeled.

Boulder officials also will be working on an appraisal of Xcel's distribution system in preparation for possible condemnation proceedings against the utility and trying to get clarification from federal regulators about whether Boulder is likely to owe stranded costs to Xcel.

Detroit Canada Bridge to Benefit Michigan and Ohio

 

The Toledo Blade takes a somewhat different and even more positive outlook towards the Detroit International Trade Crossing/ DRIC Bridge than even the Michigan papers. The Blade recognizes the importance to Ohio of Detroit’s second international bridge crossing.

It is interesting to note that the Ohio legislature passed a resolution supporting this proposed International Trade Crossing.

 

http://www.toledoblade.com/Nation/2013/04/13/Detroit-Canada-bridge-receives-U-S-approval.html

“Getting Michigan-made products to more markets faster will enhance our economic competitiveness in the future and help our state create more jobs,” Mr. Snyder said.

The bridge is expected to be a boon to Ohio commerce with Canada as well.

Ohio sells more to Canada than the next 14 countries combined, according to the Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments.

Roy Norton, the consul general of Canada in Detroit, told The Blade that millions of U.S. jobs depend on trade with Canada.

An artist’s rendering  shows the proposed New International Trade Crossing linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, 2 miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. An artist’s rendering shows the proposed New International Trade Crossing linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, 2 miles south of the Ambassador Bridge. MICHIGAN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION Enlarge

“Since one-quarter of all U.S. trade with Canada crosses the Ambassador Bridge ... 2 million U.S. jobs depend on the Ambassador Bridge,” he wrote.

He said the number of Canadian jobs reliant on the Ambassador Bridge “is comparable,” so that would be another 2 million jobs.

Mr. Norton’s region includes Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, and Kentucky.


Read more at http://www.toledoblade.com/Nation/2013/04/13/Detroit-Canada-bridge-receives-U-S-approval.html#DbHRZDWAiYtzmQwh.99

The Bridge is Bound to Happen - Matty Moroun's Failing Federal Suit

In another attempt to stop the second bridge span, Mr. Moroun is seeking relief from the Federal Bench, in maintaining that there is no authority in the Secretary of State to allow the second span to proceed. A copy of a portion of the Complaint is below.

A basic tenet of our government is that we have distribution of power in the branches of government. We have a legislative branch which determines the law, an executive branch which enforces the law administratively and a judicial branch which reviews improper activities by the other branches.

Since the first major United States Supreme Court decision, our judiciary has consistently maintained that relations with foreign power is an issue to be dealt with by legislative delegation and executive administration.

In Ware v Hylton, a United States Supreme Court Case (1796) the United States Supreme Court laid down a clear rule that the federal government can maintain the supremacy of a treaty over any state laws to the contrary. It was on this basis that even had the referenda opposing the Bridge succeeded, the United States Government could have superseded the State’s objection to the Detroit River Crossing.

 

I PREDICT IF THIS COMPLAINT IS THE BEST THAT THE OPPOSITION TO THE DRIC\NITC BRIDGE CAN PRODUCE, THE BRIDGE WILL BE APPROVED WITHIN WEEKS.

 

Continue Reading...

When Taxation is Eminent Domain..Part Two, Detroit

On January 21, 2013, this Blog wrote about a situation in which taxation may be so overburdening that the activity is effectively a taking. Small property owners have little opportunity to challenge a tax assessment. The costs, efforts and delay are so excessive that almost no residential owners challenge the City of Detroit over assessments.

Apparently the Michigan State Tax Commission has the same concern. On its own volition, the Tax Commission is reviewing whether the City of Detroit potentially over-assesses properties.

The net effect of this occurrence is that the properties are being "taken" by the activity of over-assessing! 

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130409/OPINION03/304090326 

Detroit is a shimmering example of how not to run a big city tracing a generations-long slide of depopulation, declining revenue and political dysfunction. It taxes too much, spends too much, and makes too many promises to employees and retirees that it cannot afford to keep, especially now.

And Monday's events, capped by the first meeting of the city's Financial Advisory Board since Orr's arrival at City Hall, show just how untenable Detroit's predicament truly is. Inflated property values cannot compensate for a cash burn that consistently outstrips revenue collection, further weakening the city's meager credit rating and its ability to borrow.

The cash-strapped city, judging by the groundbreaking reporting of my colleagues at The Detroit News, appears to be assessing property for far more than it is worth. The repercussions of a state review could exacerbate Detroit's already-dismal financials, depending on the conclusion of the investigation ordered by the Tax Commission.

How to Handle a Major Spill

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/us/oil-pipeline-ruptures-in-arkansas.html?_r=0

Spilling 200,000 gallons of crude oil is always a problem. However, one should note the quick reaction of Exxon Mobil in placing the booms to contain the oil and bringing in enough vacuum trucks to attempt a rapid and complete clean up.

When utilities and oil companies want to work quickly to minimize the damage, there certainly is a different attitude about a spill.

 

The local authorities said in a statement on Saturday that 22 homes in the vicinity of the spill had been evacuated.

As soon as the spill was detected, the pipeline was shut down and isolation valves were closed to prevent further leakage, Exxon Mobil said in a statement.

About 2,000 feet of boom was set up to contain the oil, and 15 vacuum trucks were deployed to clean it up, Exxon Mobil said. About 4,500 barrels of oil and water had been removed by Saturday evening, the company said.

Crews were working to make sure no oil entered nearby Lake Conway.

The Environmental Protection Agency classified the leak as a “major spill,” Exxon Mobil said.  

A Great Person Who Will Never Get Enough Credit

Crain’s Detroit touched only slightly on benefits that Eugene Gargaro, Jr. has given the community.

Mr. Gargaro is an outstanding business decision maker, and before that a great lawyer. However, nothing could ever equal what he has done for this community and Detroit’s future growth in shepherding the DIA tax through a morass of confusion and hostility. It is people like Eugene and Dan Gilbert, not a bunch of elected political hacks always taking a buck, who really make our City work. Whatever adulation Eugene receives will never be enough.

 

Crain’s Detroit touched only slightly on benefits that Eugene Gargaro, Jr. has given the community.

Mr. Gargaro is an outstanding business decision maker, and before that a great lawyer. However, nothing could ever equal what he has done for this community and Detroit’s future growth in shepherding the DIA tax through a morass of confusion and hostility. It is people like Eugene and Dan Gilbert, not a bunch of elected political hacks always taking a buck, who really make our City work. Whatever adulation Eugene receives will never be enough.

http://www.crainsdetroit.com/article/20130331/AWARDS02/303319987/tested-by-law-biz-dia-tax-challenge-nice-guy-gargaro-finishes-first

It was Gargaro's talent that caused Masco to steal him from Dykema, where he had worked in the corporate, tax and estate planning arenas since the late 1960s, Semple said. Semple was part of the hiring team that brought Gargaro to Dykema after Gargaro's graduation from UD's law school in 1967.

"He's an extremely hard-working and dedicated guy," Semple said. "I don't know of anyone who was more diligent or responsible in the law firm. He will accept just about any challenge you give him and see that it gets done."

Gargaro was devoting so much time to Masco work that Manoogian decided to hire him, Semple said.

Although he worked in the shadow of the Manoogian family, Gargaro fondly remembers his time at Masco.

"I was involved at Masco during some great growth years and was fortunate to be able to participate in planning and execution," he said. "Our real quarterback was Richard Manoogian, (but) you've got to be able to have a good backfield and lateral the ball and stay on your feet. Every organization has its leaders, and then there's the key people who make things happen and execute the plan."

Gargaro, who continues to represent Manoogian and the Manoogian foundations, also made things happen in his Dykema years. A partner and executive committee member, he helped the firm grow substantially.

"When I joined, it had 30 lawyers, and when I left, it had 300 lawyers," he said. "I'm very proud of those 26 years there."

Retirement from his day-to-day career in 2008 didn't idle Gargaro much. It simply afforded more time for another passion: civic duty.

A love of art that noted collector Manoogian had enhanced during the Masco days led Gargaro to follow his old boss to the DIA's chairman's seat a decade ago.

A skilled fundraiser, Gargaro realized his limits when the Great Recession hit several years ago, drying up both government and private funding for the museum.

"I think that donor base was getting very severely challenged," he said, adding that staffing cuts and, quite possibly, closure were on the horizon. "I would be hard-pressed to see how we would have made it."

Shuttering the DIA would have taken one more tool out of the hands of economic development leaders trying to bring new businesses to a region desperately in need of them, Gargaro said. For metro Detroit residents, it also was a quality of life issue, he said.

Will The Second Canada-U.S. Rail Tunnel Affect The DRIC Bridge?

 

In reading the Detroit News article regarding the rail tunnel, one finds some interesting issues at hand. What if the funding sources of the Federal government of the United States as well as the Dominion of Canada fail?

Second, the rail tunnel may have an affect on bridge traffic.

One must wonder if the rail tunnel and the DRIC Bridge have a relationship, which will be better exposed in the next few months. Is the funding shared for a reason?

http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130325/METRO/303250345

The Detroit-Windsor Crossing tunnel's proponents said the project will increase trade with Canada, link Detroit through to other high-volume ports and help make the city into a transportation center. The proposed tunnel along with the new bridge Gov. Rick Snyder wants to build to Canada will give the Detroit area a boost to compete with other markets, advocates said.

At least $200 million has been pledged by Continental Rail Gateway — a coalition of two private organizations and the Windsor Port Authority, said county and rail officials, adding they hope the remaining $200 million will be pledged by year's end.

The project has a big backer in Wayne County Executive Robert Ficano, who has touted it would create nearly 2,000 jobs and transform the region into a transportation hub for rail and truck commerce.

Ficano, who mentioned the tunnel project in his recent state of the county address, said it will be a boon for the region because it will allow double-stacked rail cars to move between the two countries. The tunnel the trains use today is not tall enough to accommodate double-stacked container cars



From The Detroit News: http://www.detroitnews.com/article/20130325/METRO/303250345#ixzz2OsJKcp3H

Ann Arbor Recognizes the Importance of Storm Water Control

It is interesting that so many flooding blogs are provided in this week’s articles. However, Ann Arbor recognizes the problems of towns such as Columbus, Nebraska and Delaware County, Indiana.

The Washtenaw County Drain Commission is attempting to aggressively protect owners’ rights by modifying the storm water retention process around Ann Arbor.

http://www.a2gov.org/government/publicservices/systems_planning/waterresources/Pages/UpperMallett'sCreekStudy.aspx

The Upper Malletts Creek Improvements Opportunity Study project is a joint effort between the City and the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner’s Office* to evaluate and identify opportunities for conveyance and stormwater improvements in a portion of the Malletts Creek Drain Drainage District, specifically the sub-watershed area bounded by Ann Arbor-Saline Road, I-94 and Scio Church Road.

*For more project information, click here to open the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner's Office's project website in a new window

 

On March 15, 2012, a large storm event resulted in surface ponding and street flooding in the southwest area of the City, particularly in portions of the Churchill Downs and Lansdowne subdivisions, which are within the Malletts Creek Drainage District.  It is the City’s and WCWRC’s intent to identify opportunities for stormwater conveyance and stormwater quality improvement in this sub-creekshed drainage area.  Potential opportunities may include but are not limited to detention, pipe upsizing, and green infrastructure (low impact development) to improve overland flow issues beyond the delineated floodplain in the upper reach of the Northwest Branch of Malletts Creek.

Malletts Creek is an established Chapter 20 County Drain.  Therefore, any work to study and evaluate the County drainage system falls under the jurisdiction of the Washtenaw County Water Resources Commissioner.

For more information, please click here to open a PDF (2 MB) project handout and map of the study area.

Much of Malletts Creek is contained in underground piping that carries stormwater runoff from the urbanized areas of Ann Arbor.  Nearly 37% of the land draining to the creek is impervious, and as a result, stormwater frequently enters the creek too quickly, causing localized flooding during rain events.  These rain events also carry pollutants from impervious areas to the creek, lowering water quality.  Malletts Creek falls within the area of the Huron River watershed that has a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) requirement for phosphorus and E. coli from stormwater set by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ).  In addition, Malletts Creek has a creek-specific TMDL for Biota, which is attributed to unstable flow regimes, reduced bank stability, bank erosion, sedimentation and reduced stream quality due to excessive runoff/washout throughout the highly urbanized watershed.

Virginia Farm Bureau Takes Pride in Protecting Property Rights

The Augusta Free Press noted that the Virginia Farm Bureau Federation took great pride in aiding passage of an act which protects property rights in the state. The Farm Bureau should take the credit! Actively protecting the rights of association members is the basic reason to have state-wide associations. Farm Bureaus in Virginia and others throughout the country have taken the lead in protecting individual property rights, and should be commended to further activities.

http://augustafreepress.com/2013/02/28/farm-bureau-applauds-successful-property-rights-bills/

The state’s largest farmers’ advocacy organization this week voiced approval of property rights bills that were successful in this year’s Virginia General Assembly.

“Our producer members have their livelihoods tied to their land and take particular interest in legislation that affects landowner rights,” noted Trey Davis, Virginia Farm Bureau Federation assistant director of governmental relations. “Farm Bureau supported several property rights bills, and we are pleased that state legislators saw them as valuable protections of landowners’ rights.”

HB 2306, introduced by Del. David I. Ramadan, R-Prince William, provides that just compensation paid for property taken using eminent domain shall not be less than the property’s fair market value appraisal, if an appraisal is required, or the current assessed value for real estate tax purposes when the entire assessed parcel is being acquired, whichever is greater.

Current law mandates just compensation be no less than the appraisal of fair market value, if required, Davis noted. “This bill would allow for a potential higher value for just compensation, which our members believe is entirely appropriate in some instances.”

Downtown Redevelopment

Last week, I bid a fond adieu to Jack Briggs, who was noted in mlive.com as an outstanding attorney determined upon retirement.

This week, there is a new article noting Jack Briggs is quoted as explaining why Muskegon lost out on Downtown redevelopment.

However, the comments from readers of the article would lead one to believe that all the Federal government attempts to resurrect the Downtown area were invitations for further failure. How do we make Downtown areas work? The small store has been absolutely decimated by the Walmarts. At the same time, people want to shop on their feet walking. The problem is whether there is transportation to get to the Downtown, and if you drive there, you have to pay to park your car.

Other cities have been able to maintain or redevelop the Downtowns. Bay City and Petoskey are examples.

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2013/02/from_a_legal_point_of_view_jac.html

Cleaning Up A City One Building At a Time

For years, vandalized and vacant buildings have been left simply to rot in the City of Detroit. A privately funded non-profit, The Blight Authority, is seeking to remedy the expensive process involved in public bidding on demolitions.

For all the people who read this blog and have a connection to the City, take a look and please make a contribution. The obligation for Detroit to return to its greatness is upon each of us, whether we live in the City physically or in our hearts or minds.

See:

http://blightauthority.com/

 

 

The Retirement of a Wonderful Lawyer and Person, John "Jack" Briggs

It really feels great  to speak in the past tense  about another lawyer without it being an obituary. John M. Briggs ("Jack") has been an outstanding Muskegon lawyer for forty-five years. I knew Jack from law school days (but he was far, far ahead of me) and as an Eminent Domain attorney.

Mr. Briggs will continue to be an absolute credit to the community as he has been to the State Bar of Michigan. A nice article about someone finishing their career, instead of being forced out, sure does feel good.

Best wishes to Jack Briggs, and may all his interests create the good things that all his past involvements have done.

 

http://www.mlive.com/news/muskegon/index.ssf/2013/02/veteran_muskegon_real_estate_a.html

John M. “Jack” Briggs is ending a legal career at the end of February that began in 1967 when he joined the Parmenter Forsythe law firm days after his graduation from the University of Michigan Law School.

 

Briggs' practice of law has been mainly in the area of real estate, development and valuation of real property. He has represented private-sector clients in his four-plus decades of being an attorney and throughout his career has also handled general business and estate planning issues.

Dearborn Museum To Discuss Eminent Domain History and its Effects

The Arab-American National Museum in Dearborn, Michigan will be hosting a program entitled "Place Unmaking: Voices from Detroit Communities" scheduled for February 21, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. The program should offer an interesting and informative discussion and perspective of some very devisive public redevelopment and urban renewal projects.

http://www.woodtv.com/dpp/news/michigan/ap_michigan/Panel-to-discuss-community-displacement-in-Detroit_68683393

 

Panel to discuss community displacement in Detroit

Published : Wednesday, 13 Feb 2013, 4:03 AM EST

DEARBORN, Mich. (AP) — A Dearborn museum will host a panel representing neighborhoods in and around Detroit where residents have been displaced by eminent domain and other land-use decisions.

The program entitled "Place Unmaking: Voices from Detroit Communities" is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 21 at the Arab American National Museum. The event aims to shed light on the history of community displacement and focus on Dearborn's South End, Detroit and Hamtramck's Poletown and Detroit's Delray and Black Bottom communities.

The panel will be moderated by Detroit demographer Kurt Metzger.

The program also will feature two exhibits on diverse communities that were subject to displacement. One highlights the former Little Syria neighborhood in New York City and the other is about the effect of race on housing in metropolitan Detroit from 1900 to 1968.

 

Bertrand Farm Takes on Pipeline Challenge

 

Bertrand Farm, a non-profit teaching farm, is facing the Enbridge pipeline construction in the Niles, Michigan area.

 

This is anything but a simple situation. The pipeline has a direct affect on activity wherever the pipeline traverses. Although not responding to the ABC TV request for comment, one would hope that Enbridge will treat the owner fairly, and equally hope that the owner will recognize that it is entitled to just compensation, without being hurt by or obtaining a windfall from Enbridge.

http://www.abc57.com/news/local/Pipeline-to-go-through-Bertrand-Farm-190284461.html

"We're going to survive a year without it, however; Bertrand Farm Inc. might survive a year without it," Niemier said about the loss of property.

Part of her farm is dedicated to teaching people about sustainable agriculture.

Due to the placement and timing of this pipeline, she's already had to cancel summer programs.

"It's counter to what we believe, and what we teach," Niemier said. "And would make it really hard to have some ongoing problem while that whole construction is going on."

At a loss of what to do next, and still waiting to settle, Niemier is hoping Enbridge will buy the entire farm, and let the community take over programing.

"Bertrand Farm, Inc. can become the owners," Niemier said. "It'll go on as an educational facility forever."

 

 

 

M-231 Cases Are Filed

M-231 properties north of the River have now been acquired.

The Michigan DOT is now moving forward to file Condemnation Complaints in order to obtain possession of the properties between M-45 and the River in Robinson Township, Michigan.

There are number of extremely aggrieved participants in this process.

At the "Show Cause" Hearing scheduled in March, an Order permitting the transfer of title and possession to the Michigan Department of Transportation and payment of estimated just compensation to the owner will be entered by the Ottowa County Court Judge.

Seven Years to Complete the International Bridge Crossing?

 The notion that the new International Bridge Crossing will take seven years to complete (with an explanation of even when acquisitions will occur) presents interesting questions.

Are PR agents already out there, telling people that it will be year two when their properties will be acquired?

Will owners have a longer time to move businesses or homes should the time be required for their business or institutional survival?

http://www.freep.com/article/20121225/BUSINESS06/312250117/New-bridge-over-Detroit-River-to-Windsor-could-take-7-years-to-complete

Don't expect much actual construction in Year 1, although crews may begin to relocate utilities at the construction site. Authorities will begin to buy the property needed for the bridge approaches and customs plazas. Preliminary design survey work begins.

Year 2: Authorities will complete land acquisition for the span. Utility relocation continues. Design work for the service drives, ramps, etc. continues. Some early construction may begin if all the necessary right-of-way parcels are acquired.

Year 3: There's lots of work on the approaches in Year 3, including both design work and some construction.

 

 

Negotiating With a Public Utility

In the attached article provided by the Public News Service, a property owner claimed that he was abused for six months in a negotiation process.

This writer is not claiming that Enbridge is anything perfect; far from it. However, an owner is not required to meet or discuss the just compensation or public use with the Enbridge "negotiators". The owner in the cited article had an opportunity simply to say "NO" and fight on to a very fair judicial process in Michigan.

http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/29692-1

Enbridge and Homeowners Continue Disagreement

Although there is already a pipe traversing almost every one of the properties involved, an additional pipe is required after the Enbridge failure at the Kalamazoo River. This situation has simply been found unacceptable by many owners.

Crude oil is much harsher on metal pipe and the surroundings and more likely to leak. This offers a special problem to those around the pipe.

WLNS

Last month, a judge signed a condemnation order granting Enbridge a pipeline easement on 3.5 acres of Carol Brimhall's 38-acre property off of M-52 near Stockbridge. Brimhall currently has two pipelines running underneath her property, and the replacement pipeline would make a third. Enbridge officials say the current 6B oil pipeline would be shut off and filled with nitrogen, and that the 6B replacement would serve as an artery for Enbridge oil to be pumped between Griffith, Indiana and Ontario, Canada. 

Brimhall says installing the new pipeline will destroy 85 feet of her hardwood forest, and possibly put her animals, remaining farmland and wetlands in danger. 

"It's just going to be gone," said Brimhall. "And what am I supposed to so about it? Nothing. There is nothing left to do. They have it, and that's that. They took it from me."

Enbridge was ordered to pay Brimhall $11,872 for just compensation, but Brimhall says she has refused their payment. "It's not about the money," she said. "We just don't understand how this can happen." Brimhall said she and her husband have spent more than $50,000 of their own money moving trees off of the easement and building a fence for her farm animals in an effort to protect their property. 

While residents directly affected by the pipeline replacement, officials for Enbridge insist they are doing the right thing. "It's already been approved by the Michigan Public Service Commission, and they found after reviewing it for a couple of months that the replacements of some pipeline segments would be in the public interest and need, and they approved the project accordingly," said Joe Martucci. Editor's note: Joe Martucci was an Enbridge spokesperson at the time of interview, but has since moved on to another role.

Financial Stability Agreement Holds Promise for Detroit's Redevelopment

The Financial Stability Agreement is more than simply the ceding of control of power from the City of Detroit to the State of Michigan To the contrary, it is recognition by the Michigan Department of Treasury and the City of Detroit that, if the two work together, there will be great improvements in the community and in the state. By example, among the topics of Annex E to the Agreement is a list of supportive activities to be provided by the Treasury Department and state.

Clearly, the city is having an awful time with its infrastructure improvements. At Annex E, Page 2, the Agreement includes a paragraph designated as “Invest in Transportation Infrastructure.” This includes major activity in the community, such as moving ahead with the New International Trade Crossing Project. This project, commonly called DRIC for the Detroit River International Crossing, has changed its name in the hope that a good project with a weak brand will do better with a new name. However, one should recognize that the DRIC project was a good project under its old name and is still a good one with its new one.

Further, the Invest in Transportation Infrastructure includes expanding and facilitating an improved Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal. As stated in the Agreement, this will “ensure that southeast Michigan has regional facilities with sufficient capacity and interconnectivity to provide for existing and future intermodal demand and reducing time, costs, and congestion.” One must recognize that without a new international trade crossing, the Detroit Intermodal Freight Terminal (DIFT project) will not occur. DIFT cannot be built until the engineering and plans provide for an entrance contemplating the location of the International industrial/truck bridge.

If a new bridge is built at the present Detroit International Bridge site, the terminal will have great difficulty in being appropriately located on the west side of Livernois and north side of Vernor. DIFT is a key to the economic well being of the region. Without proper intermodal transportation, production costs will go up dramatically, and the demand for products in our area will decline (a new rail tunnel also is being planned that would effectively connect international trade from Canada and beyond to DIFT).

Local transportation is also included in the infrastructure improvement plan. The capacity improvement for I-94, from I-96 to Connor Avenue, is a priority. Further, the final engineering and construction of the west Detroit junction railroad project provides for a shorter and faster route for inter-city passengers.

The Financial Stability Agreement bodes well for the redevelopment of Detroit, because the basic transportation infrastructure needs will be supplied. The Governor, Mayor, and City Council are to be applauded for a job well done. 

The Progressive Farmer Provides an Article on "Eminent Disdain"

The effect of electrical transmission and pipeline eminent domain proceedings on farming operations can be overwhelming. Del Deterling wrote an interesting article covering the subject. Featured are Michigan farmers facing acquisition for transmission lines in the State’s Thumb region. The article also offers a number of warnings for property owners about to face condemnation acquisition activity.

The Progressive Farmer

If You're Targeted for Condemnation

Seek out the services of an attorney with previous experience in handling eminent domain issues.

Do not discuss any issues pertaining to the value of your property with anyone without first consulting with your attorney.

Do not supply copies of leases, expense records, profit and loss statements, or similar documents to anyone without your attorney's consent.

Get an appraisal of your property from an experienced appraiser.

Do not make any changes in the operation of your property that may change its value during the eminent domain proceedings without consulting counsel. This includes obtaining building permits or variances, or applying for real estate tax assessment reductions.

Do not permit anyone to conduct any tests, such as borings, explorations for hazardous waste or test wells for a water supply, without written agreements that you or your attorney will receive copies of all test reports. 

Marathon Green Space

As Marathon ramps up its efforts to acquire properties near its ever-expanding refinery in Southwest Detroit, property owners should be cautious before jumping on the first offer made by Marathon.  For example, some issues property owners should be comfortable with prior to accepting any offer include, but are not limited to:
 
1.  Residents should not waive their rights to injury caused by pollution.  Residents may have already lost their rights to personal injury claims, but that is a decision for an appropriate lawyer to make.
 
2.  Owners should be made whole for increased taxes for any replacement home.
 
3.  Marathon should work with the owners to obtain discounts on mortgages and land contracts.
 
4.  One Thousand ($1,000.00) Dollars for the entry into the early appraisal process should be a non-refundable payment.
 
5. Marathon should choose its own appraisers and not force the owners to appoint an appraiser.
 
6.  The proposal does not take the other issues into account, such as the damage and risk to the commercial properties in the area. 
 
7.  Marathon should pay reasonable attorney fees and closing costs to close the property being sold and, if any, the replacement property.

The above list is not a wholly inclusive set of concerns, but offers the owners in the area a starting point of what should be considered prior to accepting an offer.  While this office does represent landowners in their negotiations with Marathon, this office does not handle the final closings on the residential properties.  There are lawyers who are seeking or are already performing services for residents.  Among them is Gary Howard at gh@howardgupta.com -(313) 849-5516. 

Michigan Radio

Wrongfully Disgracing the Judicial System

If Mr. Maroun were a lawyer, the comments he made, criticizing Judge Prentis Edwards Jr., would have led Maroun to face public derision and potentially, the sanction of the State Bar. However, when a private individual who has lost a court case makes unfair and irresponsible attacks thereafter, the Bar and the public must accept the outrageous conduct as an aspect of our fundamental freedom of speech.

The reality is Judge Prentis Edwards has been a pretty darned outstanding jurist for thirty plus years. From the days this blogger was hustling assignments in Juvenile Court, he has known Judge Edwards and can say that the judge was the most responsible magistrate on the bench.

Mr. Maroun agreed to install bridge improvements after the State of Michigan closed I-75 for over a year in order to reconstruct the bridge entrance and I-75.  Downriver commuters had the most difficult time traveling to Downtown Detroit. Now, Mr. Maroun does not want to build the bridge entrance he previously agreed to. Instead he wants to use the site to sell tax-free gasoline, keeping the profits for himself. Fortunately, Judge Edwards’ ruling finally held Mr. Maroun responsible for his attempt to thwart his obligations to the state. The public should always understand that justice prevails in the end, or at least we hope it does.

The Detroit News

Hours after being found in contempt of court, the Ambassador Bridge's owners said Wayne County Circuit Judge Prentis Edwards' ruling was an effort to help his son win a judicial appointment from the governor.

Matthew Moroun, son of bridge owner Manuel "Matty" Moroun, also said the ruling was a political response to a recent vote in Lansing against building an international crossing between Detroit and Windsor, a project being pushed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

According to Matthew Moroun, the fact Prentis Edwards Jr. is seeking "approval from Gov. Snyder to be appointed judge to the 36th District Court" may have influenced the elder Edwards' decision.

Publicly accusing a judge of bias is a pretty gutsy move, Cooley Law School professor Curt Benson said, "especially if you're due to face that judge for sanctions."


 

 

Alan Ackerman Gives Speech on DRIC Bridge

Alan Ackerman, of Ackerman Dynkowski, spoke yesterday in Frankenmuth, Michigan, at a meeting of the Michigan Chapter of the  International Right of Way Association. He was asked to speak about the Detroit River International Crossing (DRIC, also known as the New International Trade Crossing or NITC). Ackerman emphasized the dire need for this bridge, both for Michigan and the country. The increase in traffic, national security, and the deteriorating state of the Ambassador Bridge all indicate that a new bridge has to be built. He also spoke about condemnation issues that will be involved in construction of the new bridge.

His powerpoint presentation from the speech is available here.

Is Marathon Doing Detroit a Favor?

Marathon states it is buying residential property to create green space surrounding its soon-to-be-expanded refinery in Detroit’s Oakwood Heights neighborhood. However, this leaves some issues open. First, in buying the residential properties, will Marathon continue to require a waiver of any medical or physical damage caused to any individuals who live near the plant now? Will those individuals be required to sign waivers of future medical liability against Marathon?

Second, what is Marathon going to do about the businesses it destroys by dismantling this neighborhood? Is it going to have these businesses simply lie like eyesores because they have no supporting residential properties? Will businesses be able to expand after Marathon buys adjacent properties?

What Marathon proposed,  noted in the Detroit News, is a start, but it is a long way from getting there. Nice try, but these blanket offers are not fair to home and business owners in the neighborhood.

Marathon's Form Letter to Owners

Detroit News

Prior to announcing the program Wednesday, Marathon met with officials from the city of Detroit as well as Michigan's Department of Environmental Quality. Mayor Dave Bing said he intends to request that City Council approve the sale of city-owned land in the area to move the project forward.

"This is an example of a business being proactive," Bing said. "The administration will work with residents in these areas to connect them with opportunities in Detroit's stable neighborhoods with available housing."

State officials also expressed enthusiasm for the project.

"Marathon's announcement today represents a substantial, responsive gesture toward helping its neighbors," said Brad Wurfel, DEQ's spokesman. "Based on our initial review of the program, it looks like a very serious effort at helping residents who feel they've been impacted by the company to make important-quality-of-life decisions."


 

Transmission Company Continues Work West of Kalamazoo

ITC Transmission Company is intent on building the Weeds Lake high-voltage transmission line, as it believes it is the best route to connect substations in the Oshtemo Township area. One wonders whether ITC has reviewed where it is placing the line and whether there is a rational basis for this route. While the circumstances generate skepticism, at least ITC is holding a public meeting to discuss the issues. An “informal informational event” will be held in Kalamazoo on November 7, 2011, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Holiday Inn, 2747 11th Street.

Owners should keep in mind that ITC does not have a personal vendetta against them, but rather a potentially ill-founded plan to site power lines. Civility is of paramount importance. Nonetheless, this is a difficult situation for owners, as well as ITC. No notice of the route was provided in a public forum. To date, the owners never had knowledge or the opportunity to oppose the project in any way. At the same time, ITC must construct a transmission route to connect two substations.

Owners should be vigilant in what comments they make about this project. While some owners have attempted to understand ITC’s route and whether it can voluntarily change its plans, comments made to ITC without careful thought may harm owners. Oral statements may be “misunderstood” or “misconstrued” by ITC. In other words, owners can assert their rights at this meeting, but they should do so carefully.

This is a difficult process for owners in Oshtemo. Much of the land is hilly, attractive property close to Kalmazoo. ITC would be better suited by moving this line in a different direction. 

A Message to President Obama on Labor Day

As President Obama prepares his Labor Day Speech for tomorrow’s Detroit festivities, one wonders whether the proposed Detroit River International Crossing (now known as the New International Trade Crossing) is on his mind. The exact content of his speech is unknown now, but it being Labor Day, we can assume the message will be about jobs.

President Obama would do well to discus DRIC/NITC on Labor Day, as nothing creates jobs like increased international trade and large public works projects. Unfortunately, the 80-year-old Ambassador Bridge is a choke point for commerce between the U.S. and its biggest trading partner. The DRIC/NITC is a much-needed expansion to the largest border crossing between the U.S. and Canada. Michigan, as well as both countries, would benefit. 

The federal government already agreed to match Canada’s pledge to loan $550 million to Michigan for its half of the crossing. This project would be an outstanding example of an infrastructure improvement premised on the issuance of federal bonds. Alternative financing like this would actually help remedy the Treasury’s fiscal issues and shrink the deficit by contributing to economic growth.

It’s time the President used this opportunity to get the public and Michigan legislators in gear for this project. Mr. President, please remind Michiganders that the nation is depending on them to get this bridge built!

CBS Local Detroit

President Barack Obama will travel to Detroit on Sept. 5 to speak at the city’s annual Labor Day festivities, a spokesperson for the AFL-CIO told WWJ Newsradio 950 on Monday.

The White House confirmed Obama will speak at a Labor Day event sponsored by the Metro Detroit Central Labor Council.

WWJ spoke with Saundra Williams, President of the Detroit AFL-CIO which is planning the city’s annual Labor Day Parade.

“We are so pleased that he’ll be here. He’s done a lot for Michigan,” said Williams. “For all of those folks that, you know, don’t have jobs … it’s just a little inspiration and encouragement for them to come out and join with us.”

Sorry Openmarket, But You Did Not Get This Right

In response to this blog’s August 22, 2011 post, Marc Scribner of OpenMarket.org represents that economic development should be disengaged from government as much as possible. Generally, he is right. However, the DRIC/NITC bridge project is an international border crossing between two countries. The privately-owned, aging Ambassador Bridge, which recently celebrated its 80th birthday, is choking commerce between two nations and destroying Windsor because of traffic. Mr. Maroun may have plans to build his own bridge, but Canada is adamant about where the new bridge should be located.

Of greater interest is Mr. Scribner’s conclusion that the DRIC/NITC is simply a terrible idea. He could not be more wrong. Michigan taxpayers are not on the hook. Ontario has agreed to front $550 million for Michigan’s cost, to be repaid with tolls. Further, the Federal Highway Administration will match these funds. This seems more like a savings of $1.1 billion to Michigan taxpayers rather than a cost. If the bridge is not built, however, everyone in Canada and the United States will pay, as the biggest border crossing between the two countries remains pinched shut.

Those in Michigan who have been dealing with this issue after reviewing the facts are disproportionally in favor of a bonded bridge crossing. One wonders whether Maroun’s minions influenced Mr. Scribner’s articles at all. 

OpenMarket.org

Ackerman also mentions the proposed Detroit River bridge (alternatively known as the Detroit River International Crossing or, for now, the New International Trade Crossing). Here he is completely off the mark. The current bridge linking Detroit and Windsor, Ontario, is the privately owned Ambassador Bridge. That bridge’s owners wish to build a second six-lane span to augment the current four-lane bridge. Yet Michigan’s Republican Governor Rick Synder is for some reason taken with the idea of putting Michigan taxpayers on the hook in order to do something a private company is essentially willing to do on its own. Talk about crowding out investment. The DRIC/NITC is a terrible idea given the alternatives, and anyone who has been following this ongoing battle should know this. 

ITC Moves Forward With Appraisals

Over the last three weeks, the International Transmission Company (ITC) has initiated a process to appraise properties that it plans to condemn for its “Thumb Loop” transmission line in Michigan’s Thumb region. So far, ITC has sent letters to Tuscola property owners and some in Huron County as well. The mailings will continue into next year.

Under Michigan law, the condemning agency must make an appraisal before providing a property owner with a good faith offer. ITC is attempting to ascertain just compensation for losses to real property value and damage to businesses, which will occur after it condemns easements for transmission lines.

ITC is asking owners for substantial financial information. While owners must disclose some of this information pursuant to statute, issues still exist as to how much information ITC seeks and the method under which owners will provide such information.

ITC’s appraisers are also asking to interview owners. This office has counseled against interviews, not only because owners may be caught off guard by unexpected questions, but also because appraisers may misquote owners, leading to a “misunderstanding” about what owners said to appraisers. These “misstatements” or “misunderstandings” of oral comments may greatly harm owners during the process.

If you are a Thumb owner contacted by ITC or an appraiser, the best course of action is to speak with your attorney or competent eminent domain counsel. 

ITC Ready to Proceed in Tuscola County

In the next few months, ITC appraisers will contact owners and their attorneys in Tuscola County, seeking entry to evaluate property in the path of the company’s planned Thumb Loop electric transmission line. The large power line will run through private property in Tuscola, Huron, Sanilac, and St. Clair Counties in Michigan’s “Thumb” Region.

ITC has chosen two appraisers so far, though it is likely the company will retain more to evaluate the hundreds of properties involved in the Thumb Loop. Owners in Tuscola County, which ITC has slated to evaluate first, should expect letters or calls from Douglas Hodge of Lapeer and Andrew Chamberlain of Berkley. Both are experienced appraisers who will have many complex issues to deal with.

If you are a Thumb owner and ITC appraisers contact you, please read the “sound advice” and “frequently asked questions” sections of this blog’s website. Further, you should seek advice from your lawyer or competent eminent domain counsel before taking any further action.

 

 

The Frank Beckmann Show Interviews Alan Ackerman

Frank Beckmann, who hosts the Frank Beckmann Show on Michigan talk and news radio WJR 760 AM, interviewed Alan Ackerman of Ackerman Dynkowski regarding Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to consolidate neighborhoods in Detroit and eliminate vacant housing.

Although the lengthy 12-minute interview aired on February 25, this issue is still very relevant as Mayor Bing’s relocation plan is still in its nascent stages. Alan discusses how a 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution, which banned takings for private development, may thwart the Mayor’s plan to condemn property in mostly vacant and deteriorating neighborhoods.

While the consolidation plan is essential to Detroit’s future, the City must ensure it compensates displaced residents fairly. Hopefully, the City can convince most residents to leave these dilapidated neighborhoods voluntarily. But there will always be holdouts. How the courts interpret the 2006 amendment could become a central issue.

WJR 760 AM

The Frank Beckmann Show Interviews Alan Ackerman

Frank Beckmann, who hosts the Frank Beckmann Show on Michigan talk and news radio WJR 760 AM, interviewed Alan Ackerman of Ackerman Dynkowski regarding Detroit Mayor Dave Bing’s plan to consolidate neighborhoods in Detroit and eliminate vacant housing.

Although the lengthy 12-minute interview aired on February 25, this issue is still very relevant as Mayor Bing’s relocation plan is still in its nascent stages. Alan discusses how a 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution, which banned takings for private development, may thwart the Mayor’s plan to condemn property in mostly vacant and deteriorating neighborhoods.

While the consolidation plan is essential to Detroit’s future, the City must ensure it compensates displaced residents fairly. Hopefully, the City can convince most residents to leave these dilapidated neighborhoods voluntarily. But there will always be holdouts. How the courts interpret the 2006 amendment could become a central issue. 

WJR 760 AM

 

 

Please Let a Dad Brag a Little Bit

I sure like the Bloomfield Patch! It is locally focused enough to write about our kids. The article below details the experience of one Daniel Ackerman, a high school senior who spent this summer in Washington as a member of the congressional page program.

Although the article does not touch on Daniel’s future plans, this blog assures you that when asked what he wants to do when he grows up, Daniel says he wants to go to law school so he can fight for property owners as an eminent domain lawyer. One wonders where such inspiration comes from. . .

Bloomfield-Bloomfield Hills Patch

Whiz Kid: Cranbrook Student Among Final Graduates of Congressional Page School

Daniel Ackerman is inspired for service after completing the historic program, which will fall victim to the budget axe.

Each week, Bloomfield Patch features students doing amazing things in schools and their communities. This week's Whiz Kid spent the past five months in Washington, DC, as part of the historic U.S. House of Representative's Page Program. Members of Congress recently voted to end the program after nearly 200 years, citing the $5 million price tag and advancements in electronic communication.

Daniel Ackerman

Age: 17

School: Cranbrook (Class of 2012)

Accomplishment: This Bloomfield Hills resident was among 64 high school students from around the country — and just three from Michigan — to be nominated by and serve a member of Congress on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last semester. He worked for U.S. Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-Livonia), who is now on the campaign trail seeking the Republican Party presidential nomination.

Ackerman's typical day started with academic classes at 6:45 a.m., and then he reported for work at 10 a.m. five days a week. It wasn't uncommon for sessions to last well into the next morning, particularly during the current partisan climate on Capitol Hill.

"Watching congressman on the floor voting at 4 a.m. was kind of incredible, but if that's when they worked until, that's where I was," he said.

Ackerman said his primary job was running messages and documents to other congressional staffers and delivering official copies of congressional statements to the Library of Congress.

"That was my favorite task because you're sitting a few rows back from the debate, and you hear every word that happens and the side conversations that happen between members. It was pretty enlightening," he said.

Key to awesomeness: Ackerman said he's saddened by the decision to cut the program and believes those costs will now just be passed on to other departments that will have to adapt without pages and the work they do.

However, he said he's grateful for the experience and knows it has inspired him to become more politically active.

"I think it's important to be involved politically and to learn as much as I can to help ensure a better future," he said.

 

 


 

 

ITC Land Acquisitions Likely to Increase

The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the Michigan Public Service Commission’s approval of Consumers Energy’s renewable energy plan. Under a 2008 state law, electric, gas, and other utilities must implement renewable energy plans. The statute allows utilities to pass the added cost of renewable energy, such as wind power, onto customers. The Association of Businesses Advocating Tariff Equity (ABATE) is a coalition of manufacturers and other energy consumers. ABATE challenged Consumers Energy’s plan because of the increased rates it planned to charge consumers. On July 12, however, the Court of Appeals upheld the plan, which relies heavily on future development of wind power.

The plan indicates that more wind farms will need to be built. Logically, it follows that more transmission lines will need to be built to connect these wind farms to the electricity grid. Thus, the ruling in favor of Consumers Energy will precipitate more activity by International Transmission Company (ITC), a private corporation that builds and manages most of the electrical transmission lines in Michigan.

In Michigan’s Thumb region , a wind power hotspot, ITC is in the process of entering land for surveys and filing condemnation actions for its large Thumb Loop transmission project. Some of these planned land acquisitions could have a devastating effect on farm operations, because of the way the lines cut across fields.

This case shows that Michigan's Public Service Commission and courts are ready to give utilities a green light for most if not all of their projects. Renewable energy is a good and essential thing, but we cannot force a handful of property owners to bear a burden that should rest on us all. 

Michigan Court of Appeals Opinion


The Downside of No New Bridge

Delray residents featured in the Detroit News article below want to see improvements to their community before a new international bridge forces them out of their homes and businesses. A cleaner, safer neighborhood with new housing and jobs would be a welcome  tradeoff  for the sacrifice some residents will have to make for the bridge.

Interestingly, however, the article only quotes a state representative and a union official. We don’t hear from any business owners or residents themselves. Most likely, the actual inhabitants of Delray would recognize that while the construction of the DRIC would be an opportune time to get some quid pro quo from Lansing, the alternative—no bridge—would utterly devastate the community and the rest of the state.  

The Detroit News

While Lansing debates the merits of a publicly funded span backed by Gov. Rick Snyder, there is concern from local officials and residents that they'll get little in return for a proposed 160-acre bridge plaza, saying it would displace 257 homes (693 residents), 43 businesses and five churches.

And for that kind of impact, residents of Delray want investment in the community, replacement housing for displaced residents, home improvement funding and environmental cleanup.

But most of all, they want jobs.

"We all want investment, and we all want jobs," King said. "But we want to do it in a way to benefit this community in the long run."

The group also took a bus tour of southwest Detroit and Delray on Friday that showed what event sponsors described as the hope and despair of the area.

Riders saw acres of weedy, vacant lots, dozens of burned-out buildings, abandoned businesses, graffiti, litter and dumps.



 

Downsizing Detroit: What Are We Waiting For?

(this article originally appeared on dbusiness magazine's blog, and is available here)

Mayor David Bing has as close to unanimous support of this community as any mayor since Coleman Young at the end of his first administration. People in our city and suburbs want to see Detroit work, grow, and flourish. Right now, we are not flourishing. Inaction can disable a city. And yet, the notion of the “Contraction” program or “Downsizing” program, contemplating removal of homes in under populated neighborhoods, has taken a back seat to the other frustrations and instabilities in the city. Money is not the issue for two reasons.

First, the return on an investment of moving individuals from some neighborhoods would be somewhere in the area of 30 percent to 40 percent per annum given the infrastructure maintenance costs required for every square mile of Detroit. Every square mile of the city is underutilized. Police and fire services would be minimized and under populated schools closed. Of greater importance, it is possible that the maintenance of the water and sewer system and other basic infrastructure costs, such as snow removal, trash pickup, and lighting, would be minimized.

A second reason that money is not an issue is because it is apparent that private citizens who have an entrepreneurial and optimistic attitude will help fund the cost of buying owners out.

The problem that has occurred in the last year is that the community meetings have left individuals believing that their neighborhood might be the neighborhood taken, thereby raising the specter of forced removal of individuals living in more densely populated neighborhoods who would never be affected, but maintain the fear.

Action is needed ASAP. 
 

Detroit Downsizing Is Delayed

The “decision to make a decision” on how to downsize Detroit has been delayed for at least another year. The result may be that nothing will ever be done in the city. Large tracts of land will remain vacant, disproportionate funds will be spent servicing dying neighborhoods, and Detroit will continue to hemorrhage population.

By the time election season heats up next year, it will be even harder to end the delay. Mayor Bing’s plan is a great idea, but without a way to implement it, it’s just talk.

The Detroit News

Bing has said for months that he would deliver this year a dramatic road map to streamline services and encourage residents to leave underpopulated neighborhoods for viable ones.

Now, his administration said no plan will emerge until 2012 — one year before Bing is set to seek re-election.

The delay follows a host of missed deadlines, canceled meetings and communications snarls that have confused even boosters of the controversial initiative.


Ackerman Dynkowski in Article on ITC Thumb Loop

Ackerman Dynkowski was featured in the June 2011 edition of the Michigan Lawyers Weekly, which had several articles on ITC’s proposed condemnations to build a power transmission line in Michigan’s Thumb region. One of the firm’s clients explained that the condemnations will do more than reduce his farm’s acreage. The transmission lines will cut his open farmland in half, limiting the use of automated tractors and requiring costly weeding by hand around the utility structures. Ackerman Dynkowski will continue to fight to ensure farmers get fair compensation that accounts for the loss of their land’s productivity.

The articles are available here:

Power to the People - Michigan Lawyers Weekly June 2011

Fighting the Power - Michigan Lawyers Weekly June 2011

Jeff Furness unfolded a map, marked with a yellow highlighter marker, and ran his finger along the length of the paper to indicate where the high-voltage electric lines will cut through his property.

He counted off the miles of transmission line — six in a row — that cut through the middle of his largest parcels of farmland he and his family have spent nearly half a century accumulating and clearing.

He’s concerned about how having a 200-foot right of way and 100-foot-high utility poles every 900 feet — about six per mile — will impact his farm.

When his lawyer, Bloomfield Hills based Alan T. Ackerman, is negotiating with ITC, it’s not just the value of the land at this moment that needs to be negotiated, it’s the productivity that will be lost during Furness’ working lifetime, and that of his 24-year-old son Tim, who intends to work the farm until he dies.

Over the years, Furness Farm has become more efficient thanks to automation, in particular, “auto steer” tractors. He’s got three of them. “They can steer themselves in a straight line,” Furness said. “But they can’t see a pole coming out of the ground.”

He worries about how the poles are going to slow down production. Weeds are his beans’ nemesis, and all the weeding around the poles will have to be done by hand, as his tractors can only get as close as 3 feet to them.

 

Darius Dynkowski Interviewed Re Detroit-Windsor Bridge

Darius Dynkowski, partner at Ackerman & Dynkowski, was recently interviewed by the editor of DBusiness Magazine, R.J. King. The video podcast was produced by Specs Howard TV and appears on the front page of DBusiness’s website. In the interview, Darius discusses what residents and business owners in or near the proposed bridge site can expect if and when the State begins acquiring property for this project. Thanks to Darius and DBusiness Magazine for keeping Detroit property owners informed on this issue!

DBusiness Magazine

Many hurdles remain if Michigan and Ontario are to build a bridge over the Detroit River connecting Detroit and Windsor, not the least of which is acquiring homes and businesses at fair market value in the affected area near I-75 and Dragoon, says Darius Dynkowski, a partner with Ackerman Ackerman & Dynkowski in Bloomfield Hills, a law firm specializing in eminent domain.




ITC Discusses Right of Entry for Thumb Loop Project

On April 21, 2011, this Blog discussed entry prior to condemnation under a California statute.  In California, the condemning agency wanted to bore as much as two hundred feet below the surface on owners’ properties to determine suitability for a project.

Michigan also has an entry prior to condemnation statute.  Entry is allowed for surveying, appraising and general scoping out to determine suitability.  The statute requires payment of damages for injury resulting from the entry. However, when there is substantial damage, the statute may not always protect land owners. This raises serious issues of due process and fundamental fairness. 

ITC, as part of its Thumb Loop project, is planning on entering land to conduct surveys in the coming months. In the process, ITC may damage crop production and agricultural activities. This office and others are working with ITC to reach a fair right-of-entry agreement, one which allows ITC to move forward yet protects owners from unfair harm.

Ackerman Ackerman & Dynkowski represents a number of large and small owners and farmers in the area of the Thumb Loop Project.  When negotiation with ITC is completed, this office will likely post the agreed upon right-of-entry contract for owners to use.  As anyone who reads our blog knows, the passion of this office is to protect owners from losing their property rights to governmental authorities and utilities.  That is what we do, and all we do.
 

Entry Prior to Condemnation

Many states allow condemnors to enter property to survey and sample soil prior to initiating eminent domain proceedings. In the California Delta Project, the government wants to perform borings in the proposed reservoir area to determine whether the site is adequate.

In this case, digging “200 feet down” seems to create substantial interference with property rights. However, statutes that allow condemning agencies to enter and survey property generally protect the owner by requiring compensation for such intrusions. Something else in this case probably upset the judge. He may have been concerned about the fairness of what the condemning agency sought as part of its prospective eminent domain action.

Sacramento Bee

The state sought access to property to drill for soil samples as deep as 200 feet down to determine the best route for a canal or tunnel to divert a portion of the Sacramento River's flow out of the estuary. The proposal is the cornerstone of the Bay Delta Conservation Plan, a project largely funded by Delta water diverters to obtain approval for a new canal or tunnel as well as a host of habitat restoration efforts.

Yet Keeling said the state offered no compensation for this access, only a process to seek compensation for damages. Iit did not seek access through eminent domain, which provides a host of legal assurances to the property owner, but rather through a weaker set of entry statutes that amount to a kind of "authorized trespass," Keeling said.

 

ITC Thumb Loop: We Got It Wrong, Sorta

In a March 29, 2011 post, this blog chastised ITC for its letter to landowners in the path of the Thumb Loop Project. ITC wrote owners letting them know the company planed to begin surveying for a right-of-way.

This blog chided ITC for failing to inform landowners that it planned to construct a double 345 kilovolt line—that is two power line towers running side-by-side through these owners’ properties.

ITC wrote and reminded this writer that the letter contains the words “double circuit project.” As you can see in the letter, however, the phrase “double circuit” appears in a separate sentence from “345 kV transmission line,” and even then there is no explanation of what “double circuit” means. Does the average Michigan property owner know that “double circuit” implies dual power line towers? More poignantly, does this letter tell owners anything about what sort of impact construction of these lines will have on their properties?

It appears ITC’s definition of “informing property owners” differs greatly from that of this blog.

 

ITC Thumb Loop

ITC is moving forward on its proposed Thumb Loop electric transmission line. However, the company now faces the challenge of whether the statutory framework in Michigan will in fact give ITC the authority to condemn land for a right-of-way. ITC does not yet have the authority to acquire land by eminent domain at this time, despite approval of the project by the Michigan Public Service Commission.

Regardless, ITC appears to be trying to minimize the pain this project will cause property owners, who await a prospective condemnation two or three years down the road. A letter from ITC (linked below) asked landowners permission to enter properties to survey and ascertain the route with greater specificity and value land for takings.

However, this letter is stunning in that it states that ITC is conducting surveys for a 345 kilovolt (kv) line, while it in fact obtained approval for a double 345 kv line. This risks misleading landowners about the scope of ITC’s future easements on their properties.

A disclaimer: this office represents property owners in the ITC Thumb Loop project.

ITC Letter to Property Owners

 

Speculators and Constitutional Amendment Are Not Related

Wayne State University Law Professor John Mogk has concluded that a 2006 amendment to the Michigan Constitution somehow benefits speculators buying Detroit properties at tax sales. The amendment limited the use of eminent domain for “economic development” and required clear and convincing evidence to condemn land to alleviate blight. With this diluted eminent domain power, Mogk argues, the City falls victim to the greed of speculators, whose exorbitant princes hinder revitalization.

In reality, the City can acquire tax sale properties by eminent domain, so long as it clearly and convincingly demonstrates a need to alleviate blight. This blog has discussed East Harlem, New York, where residents rebuilt neighborhoods themselves. Now, they have to defend their homes and businesses against the city government’s false designation of “blight” in order to facilitate economic development projects that benefit private business.

That people buy Detroit properties at tax sales has nothing to do with the 2006 Amendment. Rather, the fact that Detroit has 100,000 vacant lots ripe for tax sale is the problem. If Detroit limited tax foreclosure sales, the issue would resolve itself. Or the City could simply present clear and convincing evidence that it needs to combat blight. Whatever the case, blaming constitutional limits on eminent domain is wrong.

The Detroit News

In 2006, motivated by fear that politicians were using eminent domain to seize family homes for projects of corrupt pals and powerful corporate interests, Michigan voters overwhelmingly adopted a state constitutional amendment banning the use of eminent domain for economic development.Although the city has always faced excessive price demands by speculators, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick was silent with respect to the crippling effect the measure could have upon the city's future.

Voters were assured that Detroit could still acquire private property for public improvements, such as parks, schools, roads and government buildings, and to eliminate blight. However, these two possibilities offer false hope of reversing the city's decline. Detroit cannot afford to maintain vast areas of park land and open space that yield no tax revenue or jobs for residents. Cleared lots do not meet the blight test which must be proved separately on each lot to qualify for acquisition under the current restrictions to eminent domain.

Taxpayers and the DRIC Bridge Project

Michigan’s House Speaker, Republican Jase Bolger, is apparently conducting some due diligence to ensure the DRIC project will not dip into Michigan’s treasury.  Bolger will be pleasantly surprised to find that Michigan will be able to move forward with this project without costing taxpayers anything. Canada will loan Michigan its half of the construction cost and tolls- not tax revenue, will pay the debt.

Battle Creek Enquirer


Rep. Jase Bolger’s press secretary Ari Adler said the Republican House Speaker from Marshall is taking a look at the proposal with an eye to ensuring taxpayers are not left paying for the bridge.

“It sounds positive, but we want to read the fine print,” Adler said.
 

 

Good Politics Meets Common Sense in Canada Bridge Expansion

Governor Snyder’s support of a bridge expansion is grounded in good economics and common sense. Michigan can only benefit from this deal, as Canada will front Michigan’s share of the construction cost and the new bridge would be an immediate shot in the arm for the State’s anemic job market.  I applaud Governor Snyder for making this issue a high priority.

With the Governor’s backing, the project will surely move forward. Now owners have a definitive answer on whether takings will occur, ending uncertainty that has lasted at least six years since lawmakers began contemplating the border crossing. In fact, the City of Detroit had plans to build a golf course and upscale subdivision before talk of the bridge. The threat of condemnation has lingered in this area for decades. Now these owners, many of whom I represent, can begin plans to obtain fair compensation from the State and relocate.

The Detroit News  

Snyder said the $550 million Canada has offered to finance the state's share of connecting roads for the bridge is too valuable to pass up, and going ahead will mean Michigan gets additional federal matching funds for other road projects. Canada has offered to front Michigan's share of the bridge's $2.1 billion construction cost and recover the money from Michigan's share of bridge tolls.

The new bridge is "not just a Detroit issue," Snyder said. "Every farmer and manufacturer can tell you why it's important to have world trade."

"Construction of the DRIC will bring up to 10,000 jobs and further establish Detroit as an international trade hub," said Dan Lijana, spokesman for Detroit Mayor Dave Bing. "We can't afford further delays or political posturing on a project so critical to our economic future."

 

Opposition to Detroit Downsizing

Opponents of Mayor Bing’s plan to consolidate residential areas have reason for concern. The Michigan Citizen article questions the secrecy of the downsizing plan and whether it will treat homeowners fairly. The policy has dredged up memories of the infamous Poletown taking in the 1980s. However, rather than rush to judgment, we should wait until the Bing Administration releases details of the plans. Patience is a necessary part of this process. Right now we can only speculate on how the downsizing will proceed and which residents it will affect.

The Michigan Citizen 

The Bing administration has promised that the next phase of the Detroit Works Project would begin early this year with a series of 40 neighborhood meetings.

City planners have still not scheduled those meetings.

“We want to complete a certain level of analysis before asking people to move in order to maintain diversity and give people options based on analysis and neighborhood indicators,” Marja Winters, City of Detroit Planning and Development Department Deputy Director and co-director of the Detroit works Project, told the Michigan Citizen.

 Maps of detailed neighborhood surveys provided by Data Driven Detroit (D3) offer only a guess as to where the city will concentrate relocation efforts. The highest rates of foreclosure have occurred in the densely populated areas on the outskirts of the city. The areas with the least housing stock occur in a ring around the downtown district. This geographical reality contradicts any belief that Bing will attempt to shrink the city by moving it inward.
 

DRIC Bridge Faces Further Delay

The WDIV article has it right.  There is no precise “feeling” of what should come out of the House and Senate.  At the same time, one must acknowledge that the underlying principles of legislation is to allow debate on a subject when there is no precise knowledge prior to passage of a bill on the table.  Clearly, the bill passed in the House will not and is not satisfactory to the vast majority of the senate and a substantial minority, including some Democrats, in the House.  At the same, Senator Gilbert is leading the review process for the proposed second bridge, to be built with bonds and no State of Michigan liability.  Senator Gilbert is a responsive and responsible State Senator, possibly one of the most responsible in the Senate.  As a Republican senator, his views may be considered by enough members of his own party that a satisfactory bill will be enacted as legislation even before the end of the year.

wdiv.com

If the Senate doesn't vote this year, it would be left to the next Legislature and governor to address the issue starting in 2011.

Bishop hasn't declared the legislation as dead.

The Michigan House earlier this year approved a bill that would let the state enter a partnership with Canada and a private contractor.

Mayor Bing No Longer Sends a Mixed Message

In the most recent Mlive article written by Jonathan Oosting, Mayor Bing’s provided a final decision that there will be no eminent domain as part of the downsizing for the City of Detroit.  At the same time, the Mayor said, “relocation would ‘absolutely’ be part of any plan” to have the city right sized.

     This offers an interesting conflict, or one that may very well be required in order to move forward with a “rightsizing” plan for the City of Detroit.

     This writer suspects that the relocation benefits which will be made available, as part of any plan will be so substantial that very few owners would reject moving if their moving was required.  At the same time, the City also will have to recognize that it may be required to receive state legislation to limit fire and police to neighborhoods, which do not maintain certain minimum densities.  The real question is whether Mayor Bing has the stomach to really go through with this whole process.  One hopes he does if they still have an affinity for the City of Detroit.

mlive.com

"This plan ultimately belongs to the people of Detroit.  We won't succeed without their support and cooperation." And most importantly, he said, "We will not take the position of forcing people from their homes."

Bing sparked fears among some residents last year when he suggested relocation would "absolutely" be part of any plan to rightsize the city in the wake of continued population loss and revenue.  A staff member in August stressed the city would not "force" any relocation, and today marked Bing's most concrete clarification.

While the city may offer incentives to encourage residents to move from blighted to stable neighborhoods, it will not use eminent domain.  Bing has also ruled out annexing parts of the city.

OP-ED Views on the Poletown Plant

Articles written by Jason Adkins and John Mogk offer a harsh conflict as to the reality of what happened with Poletown.

In 1980-81, the City of Detroit acquired land to rush in the construction of a General Motors assembly plant within the Detroit City limits.  In the Poletown eminent domain proceeding, the City stated that the condemnation was premised upon economic need of the community as a whole during a high unemployment period.

At that time, much of the City of Detroit was blighted.  Acquiring in order to remove blight remains a valid reason for the taking of property for a public use.  Given the present situation, the City has the opportunity to build another assembly plant by simply utilizing the blight removal standard.  In reality, the comments by Mr. Mogk and Mr. Adkins may be an irrelevancy in the present urban reality.

Read more: Detroit still needs eminent domain | freep.com | Detroit Free Press

Like most states, Michigan's land property law continues to be based upon a complex bundle of property rights established in England after the Norman conquest of 1066. Every lot in Detroit potentially has many stakeholders that include the title holder, tenants, easement holders, mortgage and lien holders.

Without eminent domain, each has to be dealt with separately. Many are difficult to locate, and many will ask for exorbitant payouts or refuse to sell. Even a few holdouts could end a project.

This isn't widely understood because the 2006 amendment allows eminent domain to be used to acquire "blighted" property. But here's the catch: It requires that blight be proved separately on each private parcel, and leaves the city powerless to do anything with small occupied parcels. No longer can the city declare a 90% vacant area blighted and acquire all of the land.

Corporations understand the importance of land acquisition logistics in deciding where to locate. As the economy retools, and the nation and state gear up for a major new wave of manufacturing, Detroit will be left out.

The state's eminent domain provision needs to be reexamined for distressed urban areas if Detroit is to rebuild.


Read more: Poletown plant is not worth repeating | freep.com | Detroit Free Press     

Detroit has gained nothing from the plant. Only half the promised 6,500 jobs ever materialized. There is substantial evidence that the project actually resulted in a net economic loss for the city.

By contrast, 1,500 homes, 144 businesses and 16 churches were bulldozed to make way for the plant.

Urban redevelopment schemes like Poletown are not the answer to economic growth. Instead, Detroit should remove barriers to development such as high taxes, fees and red tape.

Only then will it have the renewal it so desperately needs.

Oil Spill In Battle Creek

The oil spill in Battle Creek is deja vu.  This office had a huge fight over the Enbridge pipelines expansion.  It part, Enbridge was denied some of the necessary FERC licenses, thereby barring the utility from receiving the power of eminent domain needed to condemn certain property.  Nonetheless, Enbridge still had enough permission to build pipelines in a majority of the state.  In a true public health crises, we now have Enbridge pumping 800,000 gallons of oil into a major state waterway system. If the oil spill is not contained, the effect will have a negative impact to other states bordering lake Michigan.  This is truly a shame.

detnews.com

More than 20 homes have been evacuated

EPA officials in Chicago's regional office declined to say it is the largest spill. "It certainly is one of the largest in recent memory in the Midwest," EPA Spokesman Mick Hans said.

Schauer also took issue with the handling of the pipeline rupture by the company that owns the line, Enbridge Liquid Pipelines.

"I want to find out how the hell this happened," he said. "I am especially concerned about the response of the company and whether their estimates are accurate."

Early estimates of the amount of oil that have spilled from an underground pipeline hovered around 840,000 gallons. Schauer said the spill is now being investigated by the EPA as well as the National Transportation Safety Board.

Sharon Township screams again


The Manchester Enterprise article provides a clear sense of  the crazy arguments presented in a recent township meeting.  The township chose to buy a piece of property, fully knowing its risk.  Why are all the citizens and residents of Sharon Township complaining when they made the decision?  There is one thing this Manchester Michigan Enterprise article does cover, and that is the deeply held belief by citizens that elected officials should “save face and resign”.  The citizens are right.
 

The Manchester Enterprise


"Sharon Township can not afford any more million dollar debacles due to its board's incompetence and lack of communication skills. Those board members that voted to take the Gourley property should do the honorable thing and resign immediately for the good of the township."

One resident, who declined to give her name, said she feels blindsided by the board's "shady politics."

"The facts are not there," she said. "No one can tell us what happened exactly that led us to where we are now."

Several residents asked if former supervisor Gary Blades was going to be investigated for wrongdoing.

"He did nothing that would warrant an investigation," Lucas said. "Everything was done in an open meeting."

The Ambassador Bridge Brawl

CNN wrote a relatively balanced article explaining the issue of why there is a hotly disputed and contentious fight over  whether the City of Detroit should have a publicly owned bridge or maintain and improve the private bridge.  Arguably, there is no clear answer.  However, the whole notion of who should control the bridge must be, in part, dependent on what Canada wants.  Canada is a “partner” in the bridge activity.
    It is without question, a new bridge must be built.  The real question is whether the bridge will be delayed forever to the lobbying of the so-called private enterprise side.

 

cnn.com


"We have somebody willing to build this at his own cost, with no cost to the taxpayer," says Rep. Dave Agema, who fought the bill's passage in the House. "To me, this is a no-brainer."

On the flip side, many locals counter that trusting Maroun to modernize the U.S./Canada transit link would be the real brainless move. The billionaire isn't a popular figure in the decaying neighborhood that surrounds his Ambassador Bridge. State Representative Rashida Tlaib, whose district includes that area, has thrown her support behind the House version of the DRIC plan, which includes provisions for community investments.

"The neighborhood has reaped no benefits with the bridge company other than trucks in our neighborhood," she says. "It's a historic district with homes being torn down and blighted homes that the company owns. It's an eyesore. We haven't had a good neighbor when it comes to the Ambassador Bridge."

The government of Canada is also pushing for a municipal solution to the bridge problem. With the land acquired, funding in place and key parties on board, the DRIC project is nearly shovel-ready, according to Canadian Minister of Transport John Baird.

"This is the most important public infrastructure project in the country," he says. "It's essential to the economic well being of both countries."

Sharon Township residents outraged

The original decision to condemn, although clearly the brainchild of the former Supervisor, Gary Blades, was considered and adopted at an open meeting. None of the citizens questioned it (probably because no one bothered attending or paying attention).  Blades abruptly resigned shortly after an answer was filed in the litigation.  Fred Lucas, the Twp. attorney is taking a lot of heat although he tried a very good case and probably saved them tons of money.  Hindsight is always 20-20.

This probably could have been worked out with appropriate land use during a good economy.

At this point, it makes sense to vote for the bond which will spread the judgment over 15 years.  However, my sense is that it will be defeated out of spite (because the Board is recommending approval) or ignorance (i.e. I'll never vote for a tax increase).  Unfortunately, the alternative is that the entire judgment will be spread across the assessment rolls for one year and everyone gets hammered.

 

The Manchester Enterprise


Sharon Township residents filled the township hall to overflow capacity at a special meeting of the township board Monday night outraged over a 1.05 millage ballot proposal scheduled for the August primary.

The proposal requires voters to vote "yea" or "nay" to allow the township to sell bonds that would be repaid from the proceeds of the proposed millage in order to pay off a $683,333 debt settlement with resident Roy Gourley.

On Nov. 20, 2009, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court entered a judgment against the township following a lengthy lawsuit stemming from the township's condemnation of 25 acres of Gourley's land in 2007. The court ordered the township to pay $491,146 plus statutory interest for the land and $223,720 in attorney fees.

Grand Valley State University Moves Forward

Grand Valley State University desires to expand its Grand Rapids campus.  The former A&P warehouse is in its way.  The article notes that the owner desired to cooperate in a joint venture in redevelopment of the warehouse, something refused by the University.


The reality here is that the University will probably find the power to condemn delegated by state statute.  However, the University should take a very close look at whether this property really could be developed successfully as part of  an accessory use to the University.

mlive.com

An amendment in the U.S. Constitution authorizes the state to appropriate property to certain public or private entities, as long as the intended development falls within the realm of "public use."

Lyon said university officials believe they have a strong case for development because the new building would be in the general interest of the community. The business school, she said, would serve thousands of students. The area all around the property includes acres of parking already owned by GVSU and is in close vicinity to its Pew campus.

 

Rep. Opsommer Speaks Out - Bridge Bill

    Representative Paul Opsommer is an outstanding member and hard working participant in our legislature.  He is concerned that the P3s will create toll roads.
    The reality in Michigan is that our roads are so horrible, that we may only get this worked out by recognizing that user fees may be the only long term way for us to maintain roads and build new roads when necessary.
    The attack on DRIC, especially the willingness of Canada to provide an interim loan to serve as a basis for opposition, simply does not make sense.  The need for a second bridge is there, and at some point we have to recognize that Windsor has input in our process, even if we do not like it.  

LSJ.com


If taxpayers call an elected official to complain about new toll roads, should they accept "Sorry, it's out of my hands"? Should they accept a tolling contract that was only approved by Michigan Department of Transportation? Should they accept future tolling decisions made as a result of one project in Detroit?

House Bill 4961 is wrongly being understood as the "Detroit River International Crossing bridge" bill. In reality, it changes Michigan law.

Currently MDOT must have bills passed in order lease, toll, or increase user-fees. HB 4961 would strip that and allow MDOT to not only create a bridge in Detroit, but also enter into tolling elsewhere in the state through a "public-private partnership (P3)" that allows third-party tolling.

Citizens pay themselves for condemnation

The citizens of the Drainage District will be required to pay their own Resource Recovery Authority, which they are apart of, in order to obtain property.  In this interesting article, one finds a locally elected public official at a loss to understand why outside counsel needs to be retained.  Quite simply, in-house counsel and many government organizations do not have the specialized expertise to acquire property through the eminent domain process in an expeditious or economic fashion.  Especially in a case where a drain commission is involved, the in-house expertise frequently only deals with construction issues and corporate structure. 

 

The Daily Tribune


    "The budget for the GWK Drainage District is $21 million," Photiades said, "and Ferndale alone pays 10.3 percent of that."

The irony is that nearly all SOCRRA member communities are being threatened with condemnation litigation by a governmental entity they pay millions of dollars for, Photiades said.

"We are paying at both ends," he said.

Joseph Colaianne, a county attorney for the WRC, said the commission had to hire outside attorneys to work on possible condemnation proceedings against SOCCRA.

Colaianne said the need for a traffic light entrance to handle golf course traffic is a public safety issue and it makes no sense for the county to invest in engineering and construction costs if SOCRRA can simply void an easement whenever it chooses.

Gas Fortunes in Future Litigation

If the Collingwood shale (9,500 feet below the surface) turns out to be an economically viable gas storage area, we can foresee the myriad of litigation which will ensue in Michigan.  The issue of how far one can obtain gas, including entry onto adjacent parcels, will be litigated and relitigated for years to come.  The issue of whether the Collingwood shale strata was considered in the original gas and oil deeds will be fought about just as much.  
 

DetNews.com      

 It looks as if Michigan is loaded in a ready-to-go energy resource -- natural gas locked deep in a shelf of shale almost two miles down. Daniel Yergin, a Pulitzer Prize-winning author and energy expert, calls new technology to extract natural gas "the biggest energy innovation of the decade."

In the Michigan oil and gas world, the buzz centers on a single well in Missaukee County -- a county just 8 miles east of Cadillac -- drilled by the Canadian oil giant Encana last fall. With no history in Michigan, the company moved in quietly in 2008, acquired 250,000 acres, and then chose a spot in Pioneer Township on the so-called Collingwood Shale.

Encana drilled down 9,500 feet, then 5,000 feet horizontally, a technique that enables the driller to tap into a deep reservoir and then capture gas in an almost mile-long swathe.

"Lose, Lose"

freep.com

The state House narrowly approved legislation Wednesday that clears the way for building a span 2 miles south of the privately owned Ambassador Bridge, despite intense lobbying by its owners that delayed a vote for several weeks.

Not a single Republican voted for the bill, which passed by the bare minimum -- 56-51.

The bridge bill now goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where it faces more opposition.

Backers say the new bridge will create up to 10,000 construction jobs and ultimately lead to a boom in commerce between North America's largest trading partners. Opponents say the benefits are overstated, influenced by flawed studies showing more traffic will use the two bridges.

"I've never seen such a power grab in my life," said Rep. David Agema, R-Grandville.

House Speaker Andy Dillon, D-Redford Township, was upbeat, saying Wednesday's action "creates an opportunity for a bridge to Canada that we don't have to pay for" because the Canadian government would pay Michigan's $550-million, up-front cost. He predicted Senate passage but with changes.

The Detroit International Bridge Crossing (DRIC) is supported by major unions; Ford, General Motors and other manufacturers, and community organizations in southwest Detroit.

One of fiercest critics expected to lead Senate opposition

The second step -- making it through the GOP-controlled Senate -- will only get tougher.

With 56 Democratic-only votes -- the minimum needed for passage -- the legislation withstood a fierce lobbying effort to kill it by owners of the Ambassador Bridge, the Detroit International Bridge Co.

With no Republican House votes, the bill goes to the Republican-controlled Senate, where one of its staunchest critics, veteran Sen. Alan Cropsey, R-DeWitt, is certain to lead opposition.

House Republicans failed in an attempt to remove the proposed bridge project from the legislation on a 54-48 vote.

Dan Stamper, president of the Detroit International Bridge Co., said that despite bravado by the bill's supporters, it passed with the bare minimum of votes needed.

We are missing the true issue at hand.  We have another State as a neighbor.  The State is the Dominion of Canada.  In the dominion is an incorporated city;  Windsor.  Would we allow Windsor to compel the citizens of Detroit and the U.S. government with a decision from Windsor or Quebec? Absolutely not.  Then why are we doing this to them?

Before this is all over, The Michigan State Senate can decide to investigate the realities of living on an international border and come to an accommodation over the bridge or everyone can go to work for the Detroit International Bridge Company.  The existing bridge is now starting to deteriorate, but still spews out enough money every day to employ dozens more as lobbyists or bridge employees.  SHAME ON US for not dealing with the issue earlier.  However, every reason to not build a privately bonded bridge with future income to benefit the local jurisdictions has been proven as false. There is the safety and security reason.  Canadian funding in a disproportionate fashion is now available.  Traffic will return (with business) or none of us will have children living here for forty years and all we will have is a broken State of Michigan with five million as its population.

In the end, should the Michigan State Senate not come to its senses, what we will see is a Federal Court acquisition project initiated by the Federal administration.  The bridge will be nationally owned and controlled crossing, with the citizens of Michigan maintaining the same traffic, but no bridge tolls to maintain the roads.   That would be like what one of my friends calls the stock market for the last two years.  “Lose, Lose”

Adams, Massachusetts Attempts to Eradicate Blighting Influences

The Advocate

There are other vacant buildings and storefronts throughout the downtown area, but these three are the major skeletons. No community should have to tolerate this kind of visual blight and virtual abandonment of major buildings in its downtown area. To own a major part of any community's downtown is to also shoulder a higher responsibility than simply paying taxes and nailing fresh sheets of plywood on the windows every few years.

It doesn't take an expert in public planning to see that the owners of all three of these properties are failing their responsibility to the community at large. The taking of property by eminent domain is a wonderful tool when used wisely. And combined with a bulldozer, it can turn a chilly wasteland into warm, inviting green space overnight.
    
Kelo intended to allow states to determine whether their respective jurisdictions desire to limit takings for non-public purposes.  These purposes relate to whether there is economic development to be allowed under the state’s respective constitutional amendment of payment of just compensation for public uses.  However, condemnation for blight, without any thought of economic development or end users is within police power.  Clearly, a few dilapidated buildings can be expected in any community.  However, a community has a right to eradicate these blighting influences.  Adams, Massachusetts apparently is working at this.

Eminent Domain in the Deindustrialization

pjstar.com

"It's sad, we'd like to be able to do something to help put people back to work, whether it's as a steel mill or something else," said Calbow, who also is vice president of United Steel Workers Local 7367.

But after paying the firm about $12,000, the conclusion is that county governments don't have much ability to intervene in such situations, Calbow said.

 

Putnam County had the desire to acquire the land of the former ArcelorMittal USA steel plant.  This plant was purchased and is now being disassembled, likely to be moved to another country.  Putnam County, located on the Upper Illinois River Valley, desired to acquire the plant by eminent domain.   

The one thing the county could have done in this situation is attempt to obtain legislation authorizing the county to acquire.  Had this been done, maybe the county would have succeeded in retaining the plant in order to create a start up steel facility in the future, thereby retaining jobs.

Six Considerations for Condemnation

Written by Alan Ackerman    Friday, April 16, 2010 06:30

Although it doesn’t take an eminent domain and condemnation professional to notice the high volume of vacant properties, abandoned businesses, boarded up homes and for sale signs flooding the streets of metropolitan Detroit, the exercise of power to transfer title of the property from its private owner to the government is quite complex. Many residents and business owners have fallen victim to these complexities and have lost property as a result. 

As Mayor Bing’s plan to “shrink” Detroit is put into action, people will increasingly face the difficulties associated with their property being taken or condemned. The Mayor said he plans to revitalize the city by relocating residents and business owners away from downtrodden neighborhoods. He says he will focus on building up neighborhoods in which Detroit Public Schools plans to use $500.5 million in voter-approved bonds to build schools. In order to best protect one’s property and rights, there are a few important things that should be avoided if a written notice of taking is received, or if a rumor of property being condemned is heard. 

  1. Do not discuss any issue pertaining to the value of your property with anyone without consulting a lawyer first.
  2. Do not attempt to value your property without the advice of a competent real estate appraiser. Seek an experienced lawyer\'s advice before retaining an appraiser.
  3. Do not attempt to obtain building permits, variances, zone changes, subdivision approvals, curb cuts or any other government approvals without consulting your counsel.
  4. Do not apply for real estate tax assessment reductions without first consulting your counsel.
  5. Do not permit anyone to conduct any tests such as borings, explorations for hazardous waste, or testing wells for a water supply unless counsel secures written agreement that copies of all test data and reports will be supplied to you.
  6. Do not supply copies of leases, expense records, profit and loss statements or similar documents to the government or its representatives without first referring such requests to counsel.

Dealing with an issue of condemnation can be both financially and emotionally taxing. In terms of economics, the chances of being hurt when you are relocated are limited. According to federal law, the government must provide safe and sanitary housing for relocated individuals. Emotionally, however, there is another powerful issue. People stay in their homes because they want to be in their homes. They may have had their grandmother live in that home and there may be an emotional tie. While emotional considerations are not as easily solved, avoiding these commonly made mistakes can help protect someone and their assets tremendously. As the consolidation of Detroit moves forward, if a home or business is at risk of being condemned, property should be maintained in a normal manner and expert advice sought out. 

Is Detroit Ready to Downsize?

freep.com

For months, the term "rightsizing" has been tossed about Detroit as a way to rein in costs and save tax dollars.

While on the campaign trail, during his State of the City address and in interviews with local and national news media, Bing has heralded the importance of a long-term strategy that would use the city's 140 square miles more productively, calling such a move critical to Detroit's survival.

Yet on Wednesday, Bing's staff backed away from what was first characterized as downsizing the city, saying, "We are stabilizing neighborhoods and the city as a result of a reduced population by centralizing resources, not shrinking its borders."

 

After all the talk we’ve had on the downsizing of the City, we see the Free Press claiming that the downsizing is not about to occur.

This proposed attempt would have been a great and wonderful opportunity for Detroit to rebrand itself.

Henry Ford Hospital Expansion

Detroit News

Reaction is mixed to Henry Ford's plans, which include expanding across West Grand Boulevard with a campus expected to include housing, retail, doctors' offices and research facilities. The health system has bought 85 percent of the land needed for the project. But unless it can get the rest, the project will stall, or the system will have to modify the plan, said William Schramm, senior vice president of business development.

"It sounds like a good thing, as long as it creates jobs," said Robert Knowles, an Allen Park resident who lost his job last week.

"The whole area could probably use it ... as long as they don't put anybody out of homes."

    
This law firm was involved with the Henry Ford expansion in the 1970s.  However the process then was premised upon urban renewal for the Virginia Park Redevelopment Project.  In that project, large swaths of the area north of West Grand Boulevard were taken as blighted properties.  The City of Detroit acquired the land, and transferred the land to the hospital.  
    
The situation may be very different here.  First, in Michigan, hospitals do not have public authority to acquire land.  This does occur in other states.  Second, the properties being taken may not be blighted.
    
Henry Ford may find itself in a position in which it cannot expand, which would be horrible for the hospital and the City.  At the same time, Henry Ford Hospital could simply do this right.

How Detroit might try to relocate residents

 

Frank discusses how Detroit might try to relocate residents with Alan Ackerman

Download this show

(February 25) - Frank Beckmann discusses how Detroit might try to relocate residents with Alan Ackerman, a nationally recognized eminent domain attorney. 

 

As heard on WJR 760 Talk/News

Detroit Trying To Get It Together

Detroit News

Bing's staff said the mayor is in the beginning stages of forming a plan and cautioned it's too early to exclude options, including closing parts of the city, using condemnation or seizing land through eminent domain.

But Bing is beginning to employ a targeted approach. His staff is already targeting neighborhoods with most of the roughly $60 million in stimulus money the federal money has provided for demolitions and rehabs. Staffers say Bing is considering earmarking federal block grant funds -- which fund nonprofits that provide everything from tax preparation to mentoring programs -- for certain neighborhoods.

"The first priority of any plan will be taking down buildings that pose a public safety threat," according to a written statement from the mayor's office. "The plan that follows will have broad input from city departments, the community and land use experts outside city government."

    
The City administration of Detroit has taken 180° turn from where it stood three years ago.  Over half the City Council is now gone and a new Mayor is taking a serious look at what is left of the City.  
    
The most recent proposal is one in which, effectively, neighborhoods would simply be closed, with the remaining property being acquired by eminent domain.  This is a very harsh way to go, but it is likely constitutional.  The need for elimination of blight includes being able to have the funds necessary to eliminate blight wherever possible.  In the case of Detroit, there are many neighborhoods that have so deteriorated it is rational to simply seek closure of the neighborhood itself.
    
Hopefully, fair market value will be paid in the process. 

 

Head I win, tails you lose

 

Oakland Press

Consumers Energy says it plans to implement an interim natural gas rate increase of $89 million next month.

The utility says the change would increase a residential customer’s bill by about $3.50 a month, but because of lower natural gas costs the average monthly bill will be slightly lower than last winter.

The comment that Consumers successfully increased rates when the summer prices turn out to be lower than the winter prices is fascinating. Is this sort of a “head I win, tails you lose" situation?

The utilities are avaricious in their desire to have gas storage, receive a gate fee as the gas comes in and out, and singularly jockey a little extra money along the way. Is this really what is contemplated in the pro-utility federal legislation allowing FERC to provide condemnation authority in both the state and federal courts?

 

Been there and done that

 

Grand Rapids Press

What litigation?

The DeVries Company acquired 38 Front Street in 1997 for approximately $850,000. In 2001-02, DeVries filed suit against the Michigan Department of Transportation, claiming that the S-Curve reconstruction had moved the highway so close to the building that it was now unusable as a multi-purpose facility. In 2002, a Kent County Circuit Court jury agreed with Mr. DeVries and awarded the company $578,000 in compensation for the diminished value of his building. At trial, it was determined that the building and property had been worth $2.3 million but were now worth $1.732 million.

What is the property worth today?

2009 State Equalized Value for taxation purposes is $751,000 (one-half of $1,502,600).
Grand Valley has offered to purchase the site for $2.3 million, based on a recent third-party appraisal.

 

Here we go again.   A local paper is attempting to abort a fair trial for a property owner in the name of the “public good”.  The writer should know that tax assessments are not admissible and frequently totally unrelated to value in eminent domain proceedings.  Local papers should spend more time looking at public officials conduct instead of attacking owners simply in the way of the proposed project

 

Validity of uncertain taking

SD Journal

The DM&E’s new owner, the Canadian Pacific Railroad, has no immediate plans to build the line. The railroad has dropped lawsuits in Wyoming seeking condemnation authority there.

Delaney indicated he is inclined to remand the appeal to the Transportation Commission.

If the land isn’t needed for public purpose in the foreseeable future, Delaney said it raises the question of the necessity for condemnation.

“That must be considered by the board before me,” Delaney said.

The article raises two interesting condemnation issues. 

First, is a delay or uncertain future completion of the project mean there is not necessity?  States have different rules on whether a taking is appropriate when there is a time delay or project uncertainty. Some States reject the validity of the acquisition, others maintain if the proposed use is a public use, that is enough. 

 

The second is the deference the Federal Court will give to the state agency making the original eminent domain necessity finding of a public use.  There may be situations where the courts may find an action appropriate or inappropriate without returning the case to the local agency for a determination of the validity of the eminent domain action.   This may be such a situation.

Benton Harbor- Universal Offer

Herald Palladium

BENTON HARBOR - People who own property just east of the Southwest Michigan Regional Airport have until June 26 to accept a one-time offer of $5,350 for air space above their land or risk a lesser price later.

The price could be higher in a few cases through eminent domain, but in most it likely would be considerably less, he said. The easements are needed to meet height requirements for planes that will take off from the expanded runway once it is built.

He said the $5,350 offer to each of the 160 property owners involved is based on a market analysis and typical easement value. The easements allow airport workers - at the convenience of the landowner - to go on the property to trim or cut down trees as needed. The lifetime easement goes with the property if the property is sold.

Scherwitz said all property owners in the easement area were notified by mail about the airport's need to buy air space and were invited to a meeting earlier this week. He said about 50 of the 160 property owners in an area east of North Pike Street already have taken the offer and gotten a $500 down payment. The balance will be paid in about six weeks, Scherwitz said.


Scherwitz said the voluntary easement program saves the airport money because it eliminates the need for individual appraisals, while offering a fair price to owners, he said.

"We'll work with the homeowners. We wanted the voluntary offer to be attractive to people so it would reduce our paperwork. Some have asked us to please remove whole trees," he said. "We also will provide homeowners with a list of trees that, if they want to replant, won't grow very high but will provide shade. We're not pressuring anybody. We're here to answer questions. I'm the rumor buster. We want people to have good information."

The notion of the universal “voluntary offer” does not fulfill the requirement that properties are individually analyzed. However, under Michigan law the process saves the condemner the unnecessary costs of attorney fees and appraisal costs for itself and additional reimbursements to the owner.

There are some substantial issues raised in what are considered 'small' airport easement acquisitions. What are the increased noise and other environment nuisance factors? What are the damages for the loss of the height limitations? What is appropriate just compensation?

Bridge Plaza Project

The Times Herald

The Federal Highway Administration has issued a Record of Decision, giving its approval for the $553 million expansion of the Blue Water Bridge Plaza.

The Record of Decision, one of the final steps in the project's planning phase, was was signed Tuesday by James Steele, administrator of the FHA's Michigan division.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Transportation were not immediately available for comment.

Details will be posted as they become available.

Now that that the Record of Decision has been issued, one would hope that MDOT moves forward to construction in a decisive manner. Delay will be harmful to not only the individuals and companies losing their property, but to all of Port Huron, which has been under a dark cloud of project uncertainty for over five years.

Sheldon Cleaners

Mlive

HOLLAND TOWNSHIP -- The Ottawa County Road Commission said it needs the property where a popular dry cleaner has been in business for nearly two decades for a project to widen a portion of River Avenue to seven lanes just north of the bridge separating the township from Holland.

However, Sheldon Cleaners' property owner isn't willing to part with the land at the southwest corner of River and Douglas Avenue without a fight.

The Road Commission has filed suit in Ottawa County Circuit Court to acquire the property at 118 Douglas Ave, offering $430,000 price for the 0.16-acre site. Kentwood-based P&L Co., which owns the property and leases it to Sheldon Cleaners, has sued the Road Commission, claiming the commission reneged on an agreement that Sheldon Cleaners could relocate onto an adjacent parcel.

The property was owned by the Road Commission, but was sold last year to the Geenen DeKock Group, LLC, for $214,850, county records show.

"Money is not the issue here," said Louie Cares, co-owner for both Sheldon Cleaners and P&L. "We want what (the Road Commission) promised us."

The Holland Township site is one of Sheldon Cleaners' top three locations among its 30 stores in West Michigan, Cares said.

"It's an antiquated intersection, and the time is now to start modernizing it and improving it," said Jim Bidol, an attorney representing the Road Commission in the eminent-domain case.

The $1.35 million project, which would widen River from five to seven lanes from Howard Avenue to the CSX railroad tracks just north of Douglas, is planned for late summer construction, according to the Road Commission.

One needs to look at the pleadings involved in this case. The taking of the whole property is, seemingly in part, to provide the remainder to an owner of an adjacent parcel in order to redevelop. Only a part of the parcel is needed for the road widening, with the remainder being taken to aid the developer who owns property in the area.

This is not what was contemplated in a recent state constitutional amendment. Further, the Michigan Uniform Condemnation Procedures Act provides that excess land should not be taken to make the project more profitable for the governmental agency acquiring the property.

Michigan to Get Wind Power

Click on Detroit

The skyline in Michigan's rural Thumb could look a bit like historic Holland a few years down the road under DTE Energy Co.'s announced plan to install 125 wind turbines in Huron County by 2015 -- and 280 within two decades.

DTE Energy officials told Huron County commissioners the company must add 1,200 megawatts of green power to meet the state's new energy mandate. State rules require utilities to provide 10 percent of electricity from renewable sources by 2015.

The Huron County wind turbines eventually could provide 4 percent to 4.5 percent of the company's total power, DTE says.

The Detroit-based utility now generates about 1 percent of its power from renewable energy sources, said Grady Nance, manager of DTE Energy Renewable Energy Development. He said DTE's goal is to have about 3 percent of its electricity generated from renewable energy sources by 2012.

"We're going to be running hard to do that," the Huron Daily Tribune quoted him as telling the county board March 17.

State law requires DTE to buy at least half of the remaining 9 percent of total power that has to come from renewable energy sources from a third party. DTE says it seeks to produce the other half of the renewable energy from its own projects.

It said it will do so primarily through commercial-scale wind projects and some smaller solar projects.

"We will have about 565 (megawatts) of wind energy on our own" in Huron County by 2028, Nance said.

DTE has about 55,000 acres of land easements signed, with about 7,000 more acres under negotiations, according to The Saginaw News.

In response to questions from commissioners, DTE officials said the utility expects to cap the renewable portion of its generating capacity at 10 percent. That's because green power still costs more than power from coal and nuclear plants.

DTE said construction should create about 200 jobs, with groundbreaking expected in 2011.

The new energy plan will affect our communities. Detroit Edison will build one of Michigan's first windmill projects, hopefully not to the detriment of the owners.

Blue Water Bridge

The Times Herald

The brother and sister inherited the Port Huron home when their father died several years ago. Now, they could be forced to move based on the newest plan for the Blue Water Bridge Plaza expansion.

"We don't want to move," said Marvin Beadle, 42, looking at a map of the plan, part of the project's final environmental impact statement released Tuesday.

"We want to keep our property," said Verna Beadle, 50.

The Beadles are among a small group of homeowners -- about a dozen -- who, under a previous plaza plan, would have stayed in their homes and not been included in the project's footprint. Among those homeowners, there is conflict about what is best: to have their property bought at a premium by the state or to remain in their homes.

Local officials fought for the homes -- located in two clusters on the south side of the plaza -- to be bought, fearing that if left behind, residents would have to endure years of construction and then life on the fringes of a major international border crossing.

Project Manager Matt Webb said the Michigan Department of Transportation did its best to affect as few people as possible. In all, 125 homeowners, 30 businesses and one church will be displaced in the $553 million expansion.

"We went back and tried to reduce the footprint and make it as small as possible," he said.

St. Clair County Administrator Shaun Groden said the message officials received from residents left behind by the previous plan was: "Oh my God, they are leaving us behind, and we are going to have to live in this monstrosity."

He said people were upset about what Port Huron City Councilman Jim Fisher once described as the "Swiss cheese" effect: Two pockets of homes left behind.

The project will bring to ground level and increase the size of the plaza from 18 to 56 acres. The 56-acre plan, officials said, is much better than the 90-acre one proposed several years ago and better than the 65-acre plan proposed last year.

During the comment period for the draft environmental impact statement, the majority of the homeowners in the area where the Beadles live said they would rather have their houses razed than be left behind, Webb said.

There are some perks to being relocated. The state will pay moving costs and 125% of fair-market value for owner-occupied homes, Webb said. For other homes, such as rentals, owners will get fair-market value, he said.

Meanwhile, state Rep. John Espinoza, D-Croswell, introduced legislation Thursday that would give tax incentives to people and businesses that develop the area once plaza construction is finished.

The plaza plan released Tuesday will be open for public comment through May 4. Then, the Federal Highway Administration is expected to issue a "Record of Decision," which will, among other things, allow the state to move forward with acquiring properties.

Construction, which will begin with rebuilding 2 ½ miles of the Interstate 69/94 expressway, is set to start in 2011 and wrap up in 2016 or 2017.

The single most pressing problem is getting the project determined with certainty and soon.  Delay in deciding what is to be taken will leave the Port Huron neighborhoods surrounding the Bridge in shamble.

East Village

State News

East Village-area property owners upset about a recent Lansing State Journal letter to the editor by an East Lansing official had their say Tuesday at the East Lansing City Council meeting.

In the letter, East Lansing City Manager Ted Staton responded to allegations that the city intends to use blight designations and eminent domain to seize land from property owners.

The property owners in attendance Tuesday said they felt they were being portrayed as trying to extort money from the government. Staton responded by saying his comments were directed to the Mackinaw Center for Public Policy, an organization that had published a separate letter in various newspapers last month.

The land in question is located at the proposed site of the city’s East Village development project, which would replace several student housing units and businesses, including Cedar Village apartments and McDonald’s.

San Diego-based Pierce Education Properties currently is 12 months into a 30-month deadline to complete the land acquisition of the properties located in the planned East Village area but hasn’t acquired any properties.

East Lansing should carefully limit its land planning techniques. The harm which can be done by the threat of utilizing the Takings Clause is limited to true Public Use takings and not pipedreams of planners and politicians.

Deals and Promises

MLive

The Ottawa County Road Commission said it needs the property where a popular dry cleaner has been in business for nearly two decades for a project to widen a portion of River Avenue to seven lanes just north of the bridge separating the township from Holland.

However, Sheldon Cleaners' property owner isn't willing to part with the land at the southwest corner of River and Douglas Avenue without a fight.

The Road Commission has filed suit in Ottawa County Circuit Court to acquire the property at 118 Douglas Ave, offering $430,000 price for the 0.16-acre site. Kentwood-based P&L Co., which owns the property and leases it to Sheldon Cleaners, has sued the Road Commission, claiming the commission reneged on an agreement that Sheldon Cleaners could relocate onto an adjacent parcel.

The property was owned by the Road Commission, but was sold last year to the Geenen DeKock Group, LLC, for $214,850, county records show.

"Money is not the issue here," said Louie Cares, co-owner for both Sheldon Cleaners and P&L. "We want what (the Road Commission) promised us."

The Holland Township site is one of Sheldon Cleaners' top three locations among its 30 stores in West Michigan, Cares said.

"It's an antiquated intersection, and the time is now to start modernizing it and improving it," said Jim Bidol, an attorney representing the Road Commission in the eminent-domain case.

The $1.35 million project, which would widen River from five to seven lanes from Howard Avenue to the CSX railroad tracks just north of Douglas, is planned for late summer construction, according to the Road Commission.

Deals and promises with the governmental authority should be carefully drafted and authorized by the appropriate governmental authority.

Electric Grid

The New York Times

Environmentalists dream of a bigger and “smarter” electric grid that could move vast amounts of clean electricity from windswept plains and sunny deserts to distant cities.Skip to next paragraph

Such a grid, they argue, could help utilities match demand with supply on the hottest afternoons, allow customers to decide when to run their appliances and decrease the risk of blackouts, like the one that paralyzed much of the East in 2003.

The Obama administration has vowed to make the grid smarter and tougher, allocating $11 billion in grants and loan guarantees to the task in the economic stimulus package passed by the House last week.

But it will take a lot more than money to transform the grid from a form that served well in the last century, when electricity was produced mostly near the point of consumption, and when the imperative was meeting demand, no matter how high it grew.

Opposition to power lines from landowners and neighbors, local officials or environmental groups, especially in rural areas, makes expansion difficult — even when the money for it is available. And some experts argue that in the absence of a broader national effort to encourage cleaner fuels, even the smartest grid will do little to reduce consumption of fuels that contribute to climate change.

In fact, energy experts say that simply building a better grid is not enough, because that would make the cheap electricity that comes from burning coal available in more parts of the country. That could squeeze out generators that are more expensive but cleaner, like those running on natural gas. The solution is to put a price on emissions from dirtier fuels and incorporate that into the price of electricity, or find some other way to limit power generation from coal, these experts say.  

The New York Times, which generally holds itself out to be the most accurate of media, recently prepared an article which is an offering on how the electric transmission industry has great problems in property acquisition. It utilized the comments of Mr. Welch, President of the International Transmission Company, stating that one owner held up a 26-mile line for three years. To the contrary, Mr. Welch fails to notify the New York Times writer, Matthew Wald, that the line traversing the turning point was already serviced by an existing Detroit Edison line.   Further, rather than going parallel to the Detroit Edison line, the International Transmission Company determined it would be best to try to save money by using public right-of-way (roadways), although creating danger to the adjacent traffic, attempting to avoid paying compensation to those who would be harmed.

Finally, there seems to be a lack of research in the article given that one of the three members of the Michigan Public Service Commission strongly objected to the routing proposed by ITC. Interestingly, the Public Service Commission (MPSC) serves generally as a rubber stamp for engineering plans of creating proposed routes. Here the MPSC did not act as a rubber stamp despite providing great deference to utilities.

Batavia Simpson Line

Battle Creek Enquirer

LEONIDAS TOWNSHIP — Progress must march on, but few want it to march through their backyard.

That's the sentiment of residents living in the path of a planned 25- to 30-mile electric power transmission line.

The line, to be built by the Novi-based ITC Holding Co., would cross through Mendon and Leonidas townships in St. Joseph County and Matteson and Batavia townships in Branch County. The $13 million to $15 million project would connect the Consumers Energy-owned Simpson Substation in Mendon Township to the Batavia Substation, which is owned jointly by ITC and Consumers, in Batavia Township.

ITC will install several galvanized steel poles, each 84 feet tall, along the route. The exact path has yet to be determined and will depend on the results of easement negotiations with landowners, said Roger Morgenstern, ITC community affairs area manager. The final path will determine how many poles are needed, Morgenstern said. He said poles typically are 500 feet apart.

The Battle Creek Enquirer article raises a number of very serious issues, not only for the citizens along the proposed ITC line between Batavia and Simpson, but also for all the citizens of Michigan. 

The comment that ITC has received federal regulatory approval comes as a complete surprise. There has been no filing of an environmental impact statement so far as the public knows, nor has there been a federal energy regulatory commission process fulfilled. 

Mr. Morgenstern and the ITC-appointed Citizens Advisory Citizens Council properly moved the lines out of Colon so that a community would not be totally destroyed. This does not signify Aflexibility,@ but rather prudence. 

A recent attorney general opinion (not binding law) that MPSC approval is not required may place ITC in a situation opening itself to necessity challenge. Wayne County v Hathcock contemplated regulatory commission review of takings, especially when there is a profit motive in the taking.   

The issues of the ITC extension from Batavia to Simpson will take months, if not years, to work out. ITC would have been better off obtaining MPSC approval.        

The final comment relates to the notion that the acquisition of these properties will be through a process in which ITC will Anegotiate.@ MCL 213.55 is clear in its intent in language. Prior to making a good faith written offer, ITC must obtain a statement of value or appraisal. It is unlikely that either has been done. 

Agencies Fight against Delaware

WMDT 47

An eminent domain bill will head back to Delaware's Senate for a second time. Senator Rob Venables is sponsoring the bill.

It would make it harder for the government to acquire residential and business properties and then turn them over to private developers. Last year, Governor Ruth Ann Minner vetoed the same bill. It is scheduled for a hearing next week.

Delaware is at the pinnacle of inflexible opposition to any limitation of the government's right to unfettered discretion in taking any property it desires to take. The agencies will fight the proposed legislation 'tooth and nail'.

Canadian Bridge Plaza

Times Herald

Canadian officials are prepared to start a $54 million (Canadian) project to revamp the Blue Water Bridge Plaza in Point Edward.

The project includes a 120,000-square-foot, four-story building to house Canada Border Services Agency, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, commercial brokers and Blue Water Bridge Canada administrative offices. The project also includes building seven new inspection lanes for commercial traffic.

The project will start this month and be completed in December 2010. The new building will be west of the existing Customs building.

Chuck Chrapko, president and chief executive officer of Blue Water Bridge Canada, said travelers to Ontario barely will notice the project has started.

"It will not divert traffic in any way," he said.

The work is the first phase of what is expected to be a three-phase project costing a combined $110 million.

Phase two includes building secondary processing stations for passenger vehicles and 14 new inspection lanes. Phase three includes new toll booths and toll offices and updating infrastructure.

At the end of the project, which could take between six and 10 years, virtually everything on the bridge plaza will be replaced, Chrapko said.

Timelines for the second and third phases have not

been established. Chrapko said the project is designed in such a way that each phase is not required to be finished but can be depending on need and money.

The design of the new plaza, Chrapko said, increases security by making it less open. Currently, people can walk easily across the plaza from other places, such as the Duty Free parking lot. That won't be possible on the new plaza.

All one needs to do is travel on the Blue Water Bridge. This bridge, which was once a beautiful alternative to going through Detroit to New York State or Toronto, now maintains lines through Detroit Customs to the Canadian side of the bridge. Clearly, no PR blitz is needed for one to understand that something must be done with the plaza. It is simply a decision of how best to maintain the City of Port Huron's commercial existence while substantially interfering with commercial activity because of the acquisition/eminent domain process. 

The bridge clearly will hurt the United States far more than Canada because Canada has been attempting to purchase the land over the years. Canada probably destroyed values by the process, but the same process has been used by the Detroit International Bridge Company for the past 20 years; with some results not totally destructive of individual property rights but other results which created great harm to neighborhoods.

Poletown and Eminent Domain

The State Bar of Michigan will commemorate the 1981 Poletown decision (Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit) on Tuesday, Dec. 2, as part of its Michigan Legal Milestones program highlighting significant legal cases in state history. A bronze marker will be unveiled at the ceremony that will take place at Polish National Alliance Council 122, located at 10211 Conant Street in Hamtramck. The plaque will be permanently installed at Zussman Park outside Hamtramck City Hall at a later date.

What happened in Hamtramck nearly three decades ago still reverberates today. In an effort to bolster Detroit's crumbling economic base, a working-class neighborhood known as Poletown was demolished to make way for a new General Motors plant. This action was challenged by homeowners and small businesses in the area, but was rebuffed by the Michigan Supreme Court in a landmark 1981 decision. The ruling had national ramifications and set a new standard by expanding the power of eminent domain and allowing the definition of public use to include economic development. In 2004, the Court reversed itself.

Read Mr. Ackerman's Speech Here

Good Faith Offer

News Dispatch

MICHIGAN CITY - A judge has ordered owners of the Weber Sign Service and Icehouse properties to select an appraiser to determine the value of properties at the corner of Michigan Boulevard and Eighth Street.

It's a win for the city, which has been trying to acquire those properties to begin development of the Trail Creek Corridor and had resorted to eminent domain to acquire them. The owners had challenged that in court.

Lake County Superior Court Judge Calvin Hawkins ordered both the property owners and the city to select their own appraisers by Oct. 27. The two appraisers will select a third appraiser and the three will agree on the property's value and submit it to the court by Nov. 2.

The values on urban renewal (park) cases can fall from extremely high to valueless, totally dependent on the short and long term demand of the area marketplace. The proximity to a casino raises additional issues, making the valuation process all the more difficult.

Rail Taking in Adrian

Daily Telegram

An eminent domain claim was granted Monday in Lenawee County Circuit Court, giving the Adrian & Blissfield Rail Road Co. a small lot in Blissfield it says is needed for a new depot.

Attorneys for lot owner Daniel Hacker objected, arguing the railroad has not proven a need for his property.

The price to be paid for most of the 100-foot square lot on East U.S. 223 in the village will be decided later. The railroad initially offered $19,200 plus a 25 percent “compromise incentive.” Hacker claimed in a written response that he invested $40,000 to $50,000 in buying the lot and repairing a building on it.

Here we have a railroad with clear powers under Surface Transportation Board 
(Federal) and Michigan authorization to take for railroad purposes.
 The owner clearly has a gripe about the just compensation. 
However, the authority to take under the circumstance set forth in the 
attached article is clear.   

Bridge Delays

Detroit News

A legislative impasse continued Tuesday morning over the location and ownership of a proposed second bridge across the Detroit River between Detroit and Windsor, threatening to derail the 2009 state transportation budget and funding for road projects already under construction.

The transportation budget must be approved by the House and Senate before Oct. 1 to avoid a shutdown of Michigan's Department of Transportation and all state highway projects.

Senate Republicans want to add a stipulation to the budget bill that prohibits MDOT from continuing preparations for a public bridge across the Detroit River without legislative approval.

They favor letting the owner of the Ambassador Bridge build a second, privately owned span next to the exiting bridge, using his own money, before deciding whether a publicly owned span also is needed.

When the six-member House-Senate conference committee deadlocked on the bridge issue Tuesday morning, their session was recessed. The conference committee must approve MDOT's proposed $3.6-billion budget before the full House and Senate get a chance to vote on it.

The second bridge is needed to continue growth of Michigan and Ontario. Without it, Michigan will become second tier in one more area of commerce. Is that what the citizens of Michigan want? Forget about whether Windsor got the better of the deal, instead move on for increased prosperity.

 

The Michigan Department of Transportation is not a perfect bureaucracy. But what it does not need is legislators nit picking at its basic decisional inclinations. After all they’re a Transportation Commission which is supposed to act as a watchdog.

…Because of the stalemate, Transportation Director Kirk Steudle notified contractors that his department may suspend operations on Oct. 1 -- when the current budget expires -- and shut down road projects across the state.

…If lawmakers can resolve their differences, the House-Senate committee could reconvene later Tuesday to approve the transportation budget. It then would have to be passed by both legislative chambers.

Detroit Bridge

Detroit News

The Michigan Court of Appeals on Wednesday confirmed an earlier Wayne County Circuit Court ruling that the owners of the Ambassador Bridge don't have the power to condemn property for access improvements being undertaken through an agreement with the state.

The higher court also cited a rarely heard legal principal, "the Absurd Results Rule," to reverse part of the lower court's ruling, ordering the Detroit International Bridge Company to pay the cost of a decade long legal fight with the owners of a former duty-free store.

Appeals Court panel of judges Patrick Meter, Michael Talbot and Deborah Servitto wrote that the government never intended to extend its powers of condemnation to a private company so the expense the landowner had to bear to fight this unjust action should be born by the bridge company. To force the landowner to pay "would be patently absurd and unthinkable," the judges ruled in citing the Absurd Results Rule, which is applied to avoid results like this that are "manifestly inconsistent with legislative intent."

The bridge company had appealed the Wayne County Circuit Court ruling that threw out a condemnation lawsuit the company brought against the Commodities Export Company to obtain land the bridge owner claimed was needed for access improvements under agreement with the Michigan Department of Transportation. The company claimed the state's powers to condemn property came with the state agreement. Both courts said the power belongs solely to the government.

 

-The power to take property requires a specific legislative authorization empowering the entity with condemnation authority.  Here is a situation in which the court found that there was no statutory language allowing the private Detroit International Bridge Company to acquire by an eminent domain case.

DTW plans on hold

Detroit News

Detroit Metropolitan Airport is expected to end a bitter battle with Romulus leaders by shelving plans for a controversial fifth parallel runway the city claimed would displace 3,500 residents, close two elementary schools and wipe out nearly 50 businesses.

Both sides expect the agreement to shift the multimillion-dollar runway concept from the airport's original master plan to one they can revisit if growth warrants. The agreement will be voted on Thursday when the Airport Authority Board is expected to meet, according to Taylor Mayor Cameron Priebe, one of five city leaders involved in the project. ...

-This should not come as a surprise.  Airport traffic is down dramatically.  A fifth runway at Detroit Wayne County Metro Airport would have put the airport a step ahead.  However, what would it be a 'step ahead' of?  The demand for flights has dwindled, so why threaten condemnation with a proposed eminent domain project?

Runway Delayed

Detroit News

The board overseeing the Detroit Metropolitan Airport postponed a decision Thursday on a $3.6 billion, 20-year master plan that includes the construction of a controversial runway.

As they did at the first postponement, in March, people packed the Westin Hotel awaiting the decision. The Wayne County Airport Authority board said the postponement will allow it to work with community leaders. The members are expected to take up the issue again July 24.

Many residents oppose the master plan -- especially the proposed addition of a fifth parallel runway. The proposal also includes passenger monorail and terminal expansions. Romulus officials said the runway at Eureka and Middle Belt would decimate the community, displace as many as 3,500 residents -- about 15 percent of the population -- and wipe out $114 million in tax revenues.


The 10,000-foot runway would be necessary by 2020, airport officials countered. Airport spokesman Mike Conway said the master plan is simply a guide the airport needs to give to the Federal Aviation Administration.


-The Wayne County Airport Authority did the smart thing. It delayed a project open to public ridicule until there is some certainty in the factual basis for the necessity of the project.
The need for the project is less certain given the economic issues at hand in the United States, the uncertainty of continually increasing air travel due to gas and security issues, and the uncertain status of a Northwest merger.

Airport Authority Board Delays


Crain’s Detroit Business, March 21, 2008

The Wayne County Airport Authority board delayed a vote Thursday on a controversial $3.6 billion, 20-year master improvement plan for Detroit Metropolitan Airport.

The authority, which governs the airport’s operation, cited public desire for more time to learn about the plan. There are mounting objections from local municipalities, especially the city of Romulus, that decry the displacement of homes, business and schools for a new 10,000-foot runway.

About 200 people, including residents and elected officials, gathered in a meeting room at the Westin Hotel in the airport’s McNamara Terminal in expectation of a presentation by the authority, local officials, and then a vote.

Eminent domain would likely be required to complete the expansion. About 800 residences would need to be demolished, including apartment buildings and single-family homes, to make way for the runway.

-The meaning of the delay and uncertainty will only create a blighting influence, both emotionally and physically, to the areas businesses and residents. It will be tough to transact business or sell a business or a residential parcel when one knows there is a condemnation just down the road.

Federal Power Line Plan

WASHINGTON (AP), March 6, 2008


New power line construction is more likely in the Mid-Atlantic States and the Southwest after the government on Thursday said it was pushing ahead with a plan to expand and modernize the electric grid in those areas.


The U.S. Department of Energy formally denied requests for a rehearing of a previous decision making it easier to build power lines in the designated areas, saying challenges by those who oppose new line construction were meritless.


The Energy Department has designated two "National Interest Electric Transmission Corridors" over the objections of many local and state officials.


The federal government's mid-Atlantic power corridor runs from Virginia and Washington, D.C., north to include most of Maryland, all of New Jersey and Delaware and large sections of New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania and West Virginia.


The Southwest corridor consists of seven counties in Southern California and three in Arizona.
In deciding to go forward with the two corridors, the department issued a statement Thursday saying the findings of energy congestion in the areas "are well-founded and based on data and studies."
In that event, a failure on transmission lines in Ohio set off a chain reaction that knocked the Canadian province of Ontario off the power grid, along with parts of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts.


If state authorities do not approve any construction after a year, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, may intervene and approve a grid project if the new line is deemed necessary to satisfy national power needs. Such approvals could, in theory, include the use of eminent domain law to compel private owners to sell their property.




-The US government now views electric capacity as a federal rather than State issue. As such, it is strenuously pursuing a course of developing major corridors for future utility utilization of gas and electric transmission lines.

ITC Line: Genesee, Osceola, Hartland, Brighton, and Milford Townships

MPSC- Michigan Case No. U-14861, February 28, 2008

The MPSC issued an order denying a request by Hartland Township and several area homeowners for a rehearing in a case involving the construction of an overhead transmission line in Livingston and Oakland counties by ITC Transmission.

-An Opinion and Press Release, found under the MPSC filing, rejected the Hartland Township and owners’ challenge to the project. This is the final part of the proceeding with offers and the filing of the condemnation complaints for major transmission lines, which will destroy the aesthetic attractiveness to a number of communities in Livingston and Oakland Counties.

Belleville Development

Ann Arbor News, January 18, 2008

A major grocery store topped by a spacious public library is the centerpiece of a vision for downtown Belleville unveiled at a special meeting Wednesday.

At a joint meeting of the Belleville City Council and Downtown Development Authority started at City Hall, Rick Walker of Walker Developments, based in Montreal, said a national grocery store chain was interested in building downtown.

"(The grocery store) would be an economic boost and a reason for people to stop in Belleville,'' said Rosemary Loria, chairwoman of the DDA.

In addition to the grocery store, Walker Developments would build about 30,000 square feet of retail space on Main Street between Fifth Street and what is now Fourth Street. Housing and office space would be built above the retail.

The new construction would eliminate several buildings, including Chase Bank on the corner of Roys and Main streets. Loria said the bank would rebuild a smaller bank next to the new construction.

The DDA would buy the property for the municipal lots, but would not do so through eminent domain, Loria said. The DDA would have to borrow money for the parking lot projects. It already plans to borrow about $5.5 million for a major reconstruction of Main Street that is planned to start this summer and may have to borrow up to $5 million more for the parking and other aspects of the redevelopment project, Loria said.


-This is an example of what protections offered by the recent Michigan constitutional amendment were intended to do. That is to protect owners' rights to property and allow the market to determine value for property rather than the an uncertain court process forcing owners to accept a government offer.

Ramada Inn on Belmont

WYTV, January 16, 2008

Township officials say developers have already bought the land at the old Ramada Inn on Belmont Avenue for an unspecified project that may bring in major retailers.

Now all they need to get the deal through is this fifty foot strip of land, where developers want to put in a stop light. The only problem is the owners do not want to give up that piece of land, saying they're afraid the project might decrease the property value.

But township officials say the project is too important for Liberty to give up on. Pat Ungaro, Liberty Twp. Administrator says a compromise between the developer and the owner is close to being made, but if it's not worked out, the township is prepared to use eminent domain to push the project through.


-The safety needs of a community will outweigh the individual detriment to an owner. However, the future taking should not bar the owner from being fairly treated.

Oceana Airport

Airport Business, December 27, 2007

Faced with the possibility of losing state money for land acquisition at the airport, the Oceana County Board has approved a resolution authorizing the acquisition by Eminent Domain if necessary.

A local consultant, in airport acquisitions, commented that cases usually settle through negotiation.


While airport development always sounds attractive, one has to wonder whether, on a purely cost and benefit basis, this project makes sense. There are a number of decent airports within a half hour drive.

Blue Water Bridge Expansion: What you really need to know

thetimesherald.com, November 20,2007

Mike Connell recently posed a Q and A in his article to address, in his opinion, possible issues with the Blue Water Bridge expansion. However some of the questions and answers are flawed. For example, Mr. Connell quotes the MDOT as stating that owners are better off selling the property because they obtain 125% of their own value. The problem is that the offer may be far less than 100% of the value. The 125% applies to the total amount paid, whether by settlement or trial or a simple deed. Mr. Connell forgets the rights of individual owners can be protected.

The intent of the article is to show that the government will take the property, and the owners have no rights to challenge the amounts.  Further it appears from the article owners should simply succumb to the governmental desires.  This is simply wrong!

There is no question about public use for the International Bridge, nor is there a question that we must secure our borders. However, there is still the requirement of "just compensation" in both the Michigan and United States Constitution.

What to do when facing Eminent Domain

The Monroe News recently published a very informative article on what to do when you are faced with eminent domain.

If you're approached by an oil company, gas company, or any other utility, eminent domain attorney Alan Ackerman says there are a few things you can do to ensure you're treated fairly.

Mr. Ackerman first suggested retaining a lawyer or at least consulting with one throughout the process. In most cases, he said, the entity attempting to obtain land or get easements will be responsible for homeowners' legal fees under Michigan law.

However, those who shy from attorneys also have options:

• Keep quiet, get the offer in writing and figure out what the basis for the offer is. Keeping quiet at this stage is important, said Mr. Ackerman, since whatever you say can be used later.

• Figure out exactly where the pipeline, wires, etc., are being installed. How will this affect the property next year? In 20 years? Does it destroy the farm tiles?

• Make sure you know what your local government mandates.

• Get everything in writing, make sure you can understand it and make sure it's specific. Do not sign anything until you have read it thoroughly and understand it.

• Keep the property well maintained.

• Keep in mind the people who come to negotiate the use of your property are professionals at this.

• Get an independent assessment.

• Get exact definitions.

• Beware of the tactics.

Marthon Pipeline Construction

UPDATE:  Right of way agencies are once again contacting owners.

Detroit News, September 19, 2007

City Council members grilled officials from Marathon Petroleum on Tuesday over the environmental impact of its $1.5 billion refinery expansion proposal and put pressure on the company to commit to hiring more Detroiters and minorities.

The project, which could bring up to 1,200 construction jobs and close to $9 million a year in taxes as well as increase gasoline supplies.

But some residents and environmental groups fear it would increase air pollution and say their southwest Detroit neighborhood is already overburdened with industry.

Company officials said they are committed to hiring Detroiters. They have scheduled job fairs and have set aside money for technical training and scholarships. The project will generate 135 permanent refinery jobs.

"The focus clearly is on Detroit residents," said Angelia Graves, a company spokeswoman.

-Marathon is still working to establish a plan, allowing for more temporary construction jobs and a number of permanent jobs. There is much to face in both the acquisition as well as construction process.

Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrade Project

Monroe News, September 22, 2007

The old real estate maxim is proving itself once again - this time when it comes to installing an oil pipeline.

 

Although some property owners don't want any kind of expanded oil pipeline running through their yards, others are okay with it - sort of.

For Gary Doubler, location has been the sticking point in his negotiations with Marathon Petroleum on behalf of his in-laws' farmland in Frenchtown along N. Custer and Raisinville Rds.

The project is being referred to as the Detroit Heavy Oil Upgrade Project (DHOUP) and would run from Samaria up to Detroit.

At this point, the project is proposed; no definitive plans have been secured. The new line would follow an existing line about 70 percent of the time. The other 30 percent of the time, it would run near the existing line but has had to be rerouted in places because of easement requirements.

The new line would be a wider (24-inch) pipe that would allow more viscous Canadian crude to flow.

Chris Fox, spokesperson for Marathon Oil on the DHOUP project, said the company has been in communication with all of the property owners along the route and has been working to secure the easements since last summer.

Deborah Brown, who owns land in Frenchtown, said the money Marathon was offering was laughable.

Ms. Fox said the company still is committed to working openly with people.

 

-The real problem is the pipeline right of way agents are negotiating either knowingly or negligently proceeding. This is becuase there is a very specific legal process in Michigan which requires that an appraisal or statement of value be provided to an owner prior to negotiation and purchase. The oil company agents are violating a condemnation procedure intended to protect owner’s whose properties may be take for public use in this State! I understand the process may be different in Oklahoma, but that does not mean the lack of knowledge of our fair procedure should bar owners of their rights.

Detroit News Opinion

Detroit News, September 18, 2007

Hartland Township residents have enlisted state legislators in their battle against a plan to build overhead electric transmission lines through the county, but that's not an appropriate way to deal with the issue.

Officials in the Livingston County community and some residents have been protesting a state-approved plan for more than a year that allows ITC Transmission to install 95-foot tall power poles for the delivery of electricity to the growing area.

It is not, however, the state Legislature's job to micromanage the affairs of local communities or the companies that provide power and other services to meet their needs. That rests with the MPSC, which has already approved the project.

ITC addressed the issues and followed a MPSC request to change the route, which will add an estimated $2.2 million to the project. If forced to bury the lines, project costs will increase anywhere from $15 million to $40 million, ITC officials say. Those costs will be passed on to consumers.

-The author of this blog frequently agrees with the Detroit News Opinion page on land use. However, this time around, one is bound to disagree.

One of the few outlets we have to respond to land acquisitions is to seek relief via the legislative process. We should not be upset if the owners in this area are successful. The alternative would be no opportunity to respond to the actions taken by franchises granted by the government!

Marathon Pipeline Slows

Detroit News, September 4, 2007

Marathon cleared a hurdle this morning toward a proposed $1 billion expansion of its Detroit refinery.

The expansion would add 135 jobs at the refinery and increase gasoline supplies in Michigan.  The project would also create 1200 construction jobs.

Several city council members have said they have serious questions about the project's impact on the neighborhood.

-Apparently Marathon has slowed down its acquisition attempts in Monroe and Wayne Counties. Marathon is awaiting a final determination of which community will obtain the pipeline.

There are concerns about the negative impact on the neighborhood of the refinery. However, the station vis a vis the community and the brownfield cleanup may offset these concerns.

One thing is for certain, with a billion dollar proposed expansion, even if only a half tax occurs, an economic boom will occur in the local area.

The eminent domain proceeding, consisting of the condemnation necessary for the pipeline, would shift into high gear.

Sturgis ITC Line

Sturgis Journal, August 29, 2007

ITC representatives made a return visit to Colon Township to offer an update on the proposed 138,000-volt transmission line.

ITC is trying to resolve ownership of the old railroad bed north of M-86.

ITC proposes if the railroad bed does not work, they will ask MDOT to follow.

ITC does have the right of eminent domain to condemn property ad does not need a site plan review before the township planning commission.

-The recently published article by Terry Katz in the Sturgis Journal raises more questions than the utility seems to be willing to answer. What approvals have been made to date? The utility must know that they have to offer a plan and present notice prior to initiating any action.

Does the utility intend to go around the Michigan Public Service Commission?

How will the electric company utilize the railroad right of way? Will it attempt to claim that there was no effect on the adjacent parcels if the structures are placed only within the right of way?

Setting aside the frequently challenged research of whether high voltage power lines have an effect on health, ITC must recognize that the power lines will clearly have an effect on value, whether for known or unknown fear. An article was written on this by Michael Rikon and published in an ABA Real Property Section book about ten years ago.



Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v. Nestlé Waters of America, Inc, 479 Mich. ----; --- NW2d ----

Michigan Citizens for Water Conservation v. Nestle Waters of America, Inc, 479 Mich. ----; --- NW2d ---- , is a case in which both the majority and dissent have arrived at a logical decision making approach premised upon the underlying public policy that legislation is to be read purely for and restricted to its writing versus the legislative intent. What needs to be done for this legislation to be read in the broader sense than environmental policies are to be protected and all of the public has the right to such protection is that legislation should simply state that. All that is needed is something along the lines of: "Individuals have a right to seek relief under this Act", then the issue would be moot. However, even without such language, one can read the present legislation as contemplating individuals, even those indirectly affected, have a right to seek the environmental protections of the Act.

Road Widening at Sterns and US-23

Monroe News, May 15, 2007

Monroe County Road Commission is looking at right of way issues and options to improve safety at the Sterns Rd.-US-23 interchange where a large travel center is planned. The board of County Road Commissioners heard a presentation by road agency staff on a private traffic impact study Monday night. The board took no action on the study...

The issue of using eminent domain to acquire land for widening or moving Sterns arose during the board's discussion.

Eminent domain is a legal step that allows government to acquire private land for the public good. 

On April 3, the zoning board okayed a variance for Flying J to install signs at the interchange in excess of the township ordinance. 

-  The US-23/Sterns interchange is an excellent example of a situation in which economic development requires improved roadways.  Part of the question here is whether this kind of road improvement should be an expense of the government or paid by those who are the sole beneficiaries of the improvement, in this case namely Flying J.  Read Full Article

Detroit Renaissance

The Detroit News , May 3, 2007 

A group of civic and business leaders unveiled 11 strategies that will help strengthen Metro Detroit’s economic redevelopment.

Detroit Renaissance’s strategies include developing an aerotropolis, or airport city, on land around Detroit Metro and Willow Run airports, and providing business help and financing to develop a creative corridor along Woodward that will nurture musicians, designers, artists and innovators.  Read Full Article                          

-The notion that an aerotropolis will work in Detroit has the opportunity to promote a great success, or unmitigated failure. Properly planned and recognizing individual rights, Detroit Renaissance is leading with a rational plan to do something in a community badly needing leadership.

Charlotte Municipal Airport Expansion

The Lansing State Journal, May 13, 2007

Abut 200 people attended an April 30 forum in which Mead & hunt employees presented their final studies for the airport relocation.  The two proposed plans for Fitch H. Beach Municipal Airport are as follows. 

  • A north/south expansion at the airport's current location requires rerouting, closing or adding a traffict tunnel to Island Highway, a primary county road.  Cost is estimated between $38 million and $63.5 million.
  • A relocation of the airport to Eaton Township would involve purchasing 15 homes and occupying 360 acres of farmland.  An estimated cost is $35.5 million.  

The expansion would extend the runway from 3,500 feet to 5,000 feet.

-This is illustrative of how difficult it is to place an airport. Charlotte desires to move to a "regional" program, but faces the conflict of being less than 30 miles from the recently enlarged Lansing Capital City Airport. Being between Battle Creek and Lansing on I-69 makes it difficult to come to a final decision as to not only what to build but where to build it.