not be taken for public use without just compensation therefor
being first made or secured in a manner prescribed by law." In
deciding whether Wayne County’s proposed condemnation was
legally permissible, the Court considered three sub-issues: (1)
whether Wayne County had statutory authority to acquire the properties;
(2) whether the proposed acquisitions were for a "public
to Poletown; and (3) whether Poletown’s "public
purpose" test was constitutional. The Court also considered
whether its decision would apply retroactively or prospectively.
The Court answered the first two issues affirmatively,
finding that Wayne County did have the statutory authority to condemn
and that the proposed condemnation was consistent with the Poletown decision.
However, the Court ultimately overruled Poletown, by rejecting
the notion that the concept of “pubic use" encompassed
the alleviation of unemployment and revitalization of the economic
base of a community.
The Court held that, where a citizen’s property
ultimately would be transferred to another private entity, the
one of the following three characteristics must be present in order
to satisfy the constitutional requirement of a public use.
1) Instances where private corporations
are generating a public benefits whose very existence depends on
the use of land that only can be assembled with the coordination
of central government. Examples of these types of uses includes “highways,
railroads, canals, and other instrumentalities of commerce.”
2) Situations where “the private
entity remains accountable to the public in its use of that property.” As
an example, the Court cited Lakehead PipeLine Co v Dehn,
340 Mich 25 (1954), where a petroleum pipeline company "pledged
itself to transport in intrastate commerce," and was subject
to direction of the Michigan Public Service Commission who had
the power to enforce those obligations.
3) Situations where “selection
of the land to be condemned is itself based on public concern .
. . . on the basis of . . . facts of independent public significance." In
other words, “the underlying purposes for resorting to condemnation,
rather than the subsequent use of condemned land, must satisfy
the Constitution's public use requirement.” The Court cited In
re Slum Clearance, 331 Mich 714 (1951), where the underlying
purpose was to “remove unfit housing and thereby advance
public health and safety.” The fact that the property subsequently
was transferred to private parties was incidental to the public
purpose and inconsequential with regard to the “public use” requirement.
The proposed condemnation of private
property for the Pinnacle Project did not fit into any one of these
categories. With regard to the issue of retroactivity, the Court
held that its decision would be given limited retroactivity and
only would apply to “all pending cases in which a challenge
to Poletown has been raised and preserved.”