Proposal 4 Would Restrict 'Eminent Domain'

By: Tony Tagliavia
By: Tony Tagliavia

Proposal 4 is, in essence, about property rights and the Michigan Supreme Court. It goes back to 1981 and the so-called Poletown decision.

"They took a neighborhood and gave it to General Motors," Ken Braun of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy said.

That is, the city of Detroit took private property, people's homes, and transferred it to another private entity, GM. The move concerned property rights advocates.

"It's a basic civil right to be secure in your property. Government shouldn't be able to take your property away from you just because it wants to expand its tax base or benefit another private individual," Braun said.

So, years later, Proposal 4 was drafted.

It would amend the constitution to "prohibit government from taking private property for transfer to another private individual or business." It would still allow land to be taken for public purposes like roads, but if someone's home is taken, they would have to "be paid 125 percent of its fair market value."

Lastly, the proposal would "require government to demonstrate that the taking is for public use."

Opponents argue job creation and economic development sometimes necessitate a city transfering a property from one private party to another.

But a more recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling in the Haithcock case prevents that scenario from happening.

Some say that makes "Prop. 4" unnecessary and bad public policy.

Economic development officials in Lansing and East Lansing say the process known as eminent domain hasn't been used much in mid-Michigan if at all.

But Bob Trezise with the Lansing Economic Development Corp. says there some rare cases when private-to-private property transfer could be necessary. If Proposal 4 passes, that wouldn't be an option.

"It's too bad the local community wouldn't have the flexibility to make that decision," Trezise said.

Now, when they take to the polls Tuesday, voters will decide whether full eminent domain power should rest with cities.

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