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Brighton, Mich., Code of Ord. § 18-59 has been enacted pursuant to the City's police powers, and its purpose is to abate a public nuisance by requiring repairs or demolition of unsafe structures. It is firmly established that nuisance abatement, as a means to promoting public health, safety, and welfare, is a legitimate exercise of police power and that demolition is a permissible method of achieving that end. MCL 125.486. Certainly, then, there can be no dispute that the public interest that § 18-59 is intended to serve—protecting the health and welfare of the citizens of Brighton by eliminating the hazards posed by dangerous and unsafe structures—is a legitimate one.
Plaintiffs Leon and Marilyn Bonner owned two residential properties both located in downtown Brighton. Situated on these properties were structures which have been unoccupied and generally unmaintained for over 30 years. Defendant City of Brighton's building and code enforcement officer, informed plaintiffs via written notice that these structures had been deemed unsafe in violation of the Brighton Code of Ordinances, and further constituted public nuisances in violation of Michigan common law. Plaintiffs were also informed of the building official's additional determination that it was unreasonable to repair these structures consistent with the standard set forth in BCO § 18-59. Consequently, plaintiffs were ordered to demolish the structures within 60 days of the date of the letter. Because demolition had been ordered without an option to repair, plaintiffs appealed the building official's determination to the Brighton City Council. The City Council unanimously affirmed the building official's determination that the structures were unsafe under all ten of the standards set forth in BCO § 18-46. The city council likewise found that plaintiffs had been maintaining unsafe structures. Plaintiffs filed this independent cause of action against defendant, alleging violations of due process, generally, as well as substantive due process; a violation of equal protection; inverse condemnation or a regulatory taking; contempt of court; common-law and statutory slander of title; and a violation of Michigan housing laws under MCL 125.540. Defendant subsequently filed its own complaint against plaintiffs in a separate action, requesting injunctive relief in the form of an order enforcing BCO § 18-59 and requiring demolition of the structures. After consolidating these cases, the circuit court denied defendant City's request for injunctive relief and likewise denied relief to plaintiffs on several of the theories they had advanced. However, the circuit court did address the constitutionality of the ordinance and held that it violates substantive due process. The circuit court granted plaintiff’s claim on substantive due process. The Court of Appeals affirmed and concluded that the standard set forth under the ordinance was arbitrary and unreasonable, and thus violates substantive due process.
Did the appellate court err in concluding that the standard set forth under the ordinance was arbitrary and unreasonable, and thus violates substantive due process?
Yes. The appellate court's decision was reversed and the case was remanded to trial court.
The court held that Brighton, Mich., Code of Ord. § 18-59 did not, on its face, deprive the plaintiff property owners of substantive due process as the ordinance's unreasonable-to-repair presumption was reasonably related to defendant City’s interest in protecting the health, safety, and general welfare of its citizens from unsafe or dangerous structures. Additionally, the unreasonable-to-repair-property was neither arbitrary nor unreasonable because there were circumstances under which the presumption could be overcome and repairs permitted. Further, section 18-59, on its face, did not deprive the owners of procedural due process as Brighton, Mich., Code of Ord. § 18-61 afforded them notice and a meaningful opportunity to present evidence to rebut the UTRP before an impartial decision-maker, and the owners did not show that they were constitutionally entitled to further processes in order to satisfy due process requirements.