Governments and public agencies have the constitutional ability to acquire property for myriad reasons of self-determined, optimal public use. Farms, because of their sheer size, often have to deal with utility pipelines and electric lines trying to acquire their property. Housing communities and apartments may be in the path of a governmental demand for their land.
Wayne County v Hathcock: Wayne County, Michigan pursued the taking of property adjacent to Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport for development as a private-business aero park. The so-called Pinnacle Project was projected to generate millions of dollars in tax revenue and thousands of jobs. 98% of property owners voluntarily sold their land to Wayne County rather than fight for their constitutional rights to be fairly compensated for their condemned properties.
Wayne County began condemnation procedures against the two percent of property owners who refused to sell their land to the County. Wayne County claimed it needed condemnation to transfer property to a private entity for the greater good of economic development, job creation, and tax base expansion.
Ackerman & Ackerman challenged this use of eminent domain in a watershed case with national ramifications, Wayne County v Hathcock.
Wayne County v Hathcock went all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court which ruled in favor of our client, that land should not be acquired by a public authority in order to transfer to private users more favored by a governmental agency.
This case was the reversal of the infamous Poletown case under which the Michigan Supreme Court upheld the use of eminent domain by a municipality to transfer land to a third party for economic development.
Wayne County v Hathcock set the standard for a groundbreaking U.S. Supreme Court decision in Kelo v The City of New London, in which the Supreme Court ruled that each state must determine whether economic development is considered to be part of the police power in the respective state.
This case, cited in the Supreme Court of the United States Kelo case, has established that the “people” have the opportunity in their local jurisdictions to modify the law in a way that the citizens of the community will be treated fairly.
Macomb County, Michigan: A number of local communities owned a public landfill at 23 Mile in Macomb County. Waste site contaminants from the landfill leached into adjacent properties. When sued for inverse condemnation for this contamination, the communities claimed that the impacted property was worth only $1.
Ackerman & Ackerman presented numerous inverse condemnation claims arising from this dispute. These claims surfaced because of government action which diminished the value of a property in contemplation of a future acquisition of the land. When a government acts to take land without following the legally required steps of formal condemnation, which is also known as formal entry, an inverse condemnation claim is available to a property owner. Ackerman & Ackerman has represented a good number of inverse condemnation claims filed by property owners, especially during the days of urban renewal.