The Township of Canton, Michigan makes it a crime to remove trees from your own property. Under the Township’s tree ordinance, removing any “tree,” defined as anything with a woody stem and a three-inch diameter, is punishable by up to a $450 fine. And the Township isn’t afraid to enforce its ordinance. It is currently pursuing hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines against property owners for removing brush and vegetation from their own private property.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future represents three of those property owners in two lawsuits arguing that the Township’s absurd application of its tree ordinance is an unconstitutional taking of private property under the Fifth Amendment and an “excessive fine” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Township of Canton v. 44560, Inc.

Two brothers, Gary and Matt Percy, cleared brush and other vegetation from a blighted portion of their property in order to plant a Christmas tree farm. The Township of Canton, Michigan is now suing the Percy’s for more than half-a-million of dollars in fines, because the Percy’s removed brush and dead trees from their own property. According to the Township, the fact that the Percy’s replaced the “trees” with actual Christmas trees doesn’t matter.

The Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future represents the Percy’s company, 44650 Inc, in Michigan state court, defending against the Township’s unconstitutional lawsuit.

To read more about the Percy Brothers’ story, click here.

F.P. Development, LLC v. Township of Canton

Frank Powelson removed some brush and trees from his property in order to free up a blocked drain that was causing flooding on his property, killing trees, and creating a mosquito problem. The Township of Canton, Michigan is now seeking potentially hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines, because Mr. Powelson removed some of his own trees.

Texas Public Policy Foundation’s Center for the American Future filed a lawsuit on behalf of Mr. Powelson’s company, F.P. Development, LLC, in the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan. The lawsuit claims that the Township’s tree ordinance is an unconstitutional taking of private property under the Fifth Amendment and an “excessive fine” in violation of the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution.