Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Court Upholds City Ordinance Assessing Costs against Owners of Abandoned Homes

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently upheld a challenge to a Battle Creek ordinance imposing a fee against the owners of abandoned residential property.

Kenefick v City of Battle Creek, __ Mich App __ (2009) (approved for publication July 2, 2009), a city ordinance requiring owners of abandoned homes to pay a "monitoring fee" was challenged on grounds that it was both unconstitutionally vague and violated the Equal Protection Clause. Both arguments failed to persuade the Court of Appeals.
"When these common dictionary definitions are viewed in context of the language of the entire ordinance—the stated purpose of which is to eliminate dangerous and unsightly blight, we conclude that a person of ordinary intelligence would be placed on fair notice of what the ordinance requires or proscribes."
In addressing the Equal Protection Argument, the Court of Appeals applied the rational basis test and concluded the ordinance was constitutional.
"The ordinance’s stated purpose is to overcome the detrimental affects of neighborhood blight and reduce enforcement costs associated with the blight. This Court has held 'protecting and promoting public health, safety, and general welfare are legitimate governmental interests . . . and protecting aesthetic value is included in the concept of the general welfare.' (citation omitted) Thus, the general reduction of blight is undisputedly a legitimate governmental purpose."
A copy of the slip opinion can be found

Questions? Contact
Peter Cavanaugh or call (248) 543-8320.

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