Frank Powelson tried to remove 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 however forced him to stop and is now seeking over forty-seven thousand dollars in fines, because Mr. Powelson removed some of his own trees – on his 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.
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.
“I’ll keep paying taxes on it, until I pass away, and then it goes to my daughter, and then my grandson,” said Powelson. “It’s industrial property that has zero value now because Canton wants to treat it like a national forest. It’s not and it never will be.”
“Defendant further denies that the Ordinance limits Plaintiff’s ability to maintain or ‘productively use’ its Property,” said the Township of Canton in response to the Texas Public Policy Foundation’s federal lawsuit.
The Township of Canton, Michigan is limiting the rights of citizens by failing to recognize their property rights. Mr. Powelson’s property is rendered almost unuseable due to flooding and the resulting mosquito infestation. TPPF’s lawsuit calls for proper treatment under the law so people have rights to their own property again.
“The city calls anything taller than six inches a tree,” said Powelson. “Those aren’t trees, they’re not valuable.”
Preventing property owners from making their own land functional, safe, and useable is an overreach of government authority and a clear violation of numerous constitutional amendments. Contrary to what the Township of Canton thinks the Eighth Amendment does, and will, apply to them.
Mr. Powelson’s business Poco, who does traffic control for the Michigan Department of Transportation and cities and municipalities, has been based in Canton since 1972. The property in question was purchased by Mr. Powelson from the city and now the city is fining him to use it.