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LANSING, MI-The Michigan House of Representatives has overwhelmingly passed a bill that would allow cities to condemn and take over commercial and residential properties that are unused and broken down. House Bill 4028 recognizes private property rights but asserts that local officials need additional authority to intervene in problems caused by blighting buildings in order to protect surrounding property values andeconomic vitality, according to backers of the bill. Industrial buildings in land zoned for industry would not be affected by the bill.

The legislation passed the state House two weeks ago, and is headed to the state Senate in the fall, says Wendy Hofmeyer with the House Republican Policy office. She says the Senate is on summer break, and will bring up Bill 4028 in committee in the fall. She adds that the legislation recognizes that one blighting property may eventually cause an entire blighted area.

Basically, if a commercial or residential property is deemed “blighted,” as defined by the bill, then a city can apply to have the property designated as such. A hearing will be held, at which the property owner can appeal. If the property is still deemed “blighted,” the city can then go through condemnation proceedings to purchase the property.

However, the bill insists that the city adopt a redevelopment plan for the property within four months, or turn the property over to a developer that has a plan and the capacity to carry it out, says Bettie Buss, director of policy projects for Detroit Renaissance Inc.Her group is backing the plan, which was sponsored by state Rep. Andrew Richner.

“The state is looking at ways to strengthen central cities and redevelop older areas,” Buss tells GlobeSt.com. “The whole purpose is to allow municipalities to identify properties that have been allowed to deteriorate so extremely that they’re creating problems in the surrounding areas.”

The bill gives property owners two main safeguards to ensure their rightsin the public hearing and in the imminent domain process, Buss says.

“This law would not be designed, and can’t be used, by the municipality to just take land and sit on it. The bill is designed to put property back in productive use,” she says.

Buss says the bill exempts industrial property, as long as the taxes are paid up, and agricultural and railroad land.

If passed by the legislature and approved by the governor, the new law would only last five years.

“Setting a time limit allows us to look at the law after five years to see if its useful,” Buss claims.

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