Cty. of Wayne v. Hathcock

471 Mich. 445, 684 N.W.2d 765 (2004)



The transfer of condemned property is a public use when it possesses one of three characteristics. First, condemnations in which private land is constitutionally transferred by the condemning authority to a private entity involve public necessity of the extreme sort otherwise impracticable. This necessity is a specific kind of need. The exercise of eminent domain for private corporations is limited to those enterprises generating public benefits whose very existence depends on the use of land that can be assembled only by the coordination central government alone is capable of achieving. Highways, railroads, canals, and other instrumentalities of commerce are examples of this brand of necessity.


The county sought to condemn the property owners' land for the construction of a large business and technology park that included a corporate mall, hotel, recreational activities, and more. The plan would also serve as a great opportunity to create jobs and generate millions of revenue in taxes. The defendants contested since the proposed condemnations were not for “public use.” 


Does taking of private property intended to be transferred to private entities constitute public purpose?




The court found that the county was authorized to condemn property under Mich. Comp. Laws § 213.23 and that the creation of jobs was a public purpose within its authority. The county's charter provision regarding its authority, Wayne County, Mich., Charter § 1.112, fell within the scope of its home rule powers under Mich. Const. art. 7, §§ 1, 2, 34 and Mich. Comp. Laws § 45.515(c). The lack of an identified purchaser did not defeat a finding of necessity. The court concluded, however, that the proposed condemnation did not pass constitutional muster because the taking was not for public use within the meaning of Mich. Const. art. 10, § 2. The park was not an enterprise dependent on the use of land that could be assembled only by government action. The park would not be subject to public oversight after being sold to private entities. There were no facts of independent public significance, such as health and safety issues, that might justify the condemnation. In so holding, the court overruled Poletown Neighborhood Council v. Detroit, 410 Mich. 616 (1981).

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