Hart Enterprises Verdicts Prove Need for New State Wetland Legislation

“It’s time the Legislature exercised some supervision over the DEQ,” says former DEQ director

For Immediate Release
Thursday, Sept. 25, 2008
Contact: Russ Harding
Director of the Mackinac Center’s Property Rights Network
Patrick J. Wright
Mackinac Center Senior Legal Analyst

MIDLAND — Yesterday evening’s guilty verdicts against Sparta businessman Alan Taylor for supposed violations of Michigan’s wetland law represent “a terrible decision that should send chills down the spine of every Michigan property owner,” said Mackinac Center Property Rights Network Director Russ Harding today. “The verdicts are the product of the DEQ’s unreasonable view of Michigan’s wetlands law and the courts’ willingness to defer to it,” added Harding, a former director of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality,

Mackinac Center Senior Legal Analyst Patrick J. Wright observed: “As currently written, Michigan wetland law provides vague guidelines to regulators. This law needs to be reworked by the state Legislature to ensure that landowners can tell whether they have violated state wetland law without imploring the DEQ for an opinion. The current process involves the rule of men, not of law.”

Taylor, president and founder of Hart Enterprises, a medical device manufacturer employing around 100 people, ran afoul of the DEQ when trying to expand the company’s parking lot to accommodate the company’s growth. The area of the partially completed expansion had begun to hold large puddles of water for short parts of the year after more than a decade of construction activity on and around the site.

Harding added: “Here we have a businessman and outdoorsman who moved his high-tech business to Michigan from the Chicago area because of our state’s easy access to hunting and fishing, and he finds himself dealing with DEQ wetland enforcement over a so-called ‘wetland’ that is less than one acre in size and retains water for little more than three weeks each spring. This kind of thing is killing Michigan’s economy and doing nothing to protect natural resources. It’s time the Legislature exercised some supervision over the DEQ.”

The Mackinac Center, a nonprofit research and education institute, has published a study of the Hart Enterprises controversy and the state’s wetland law; the study is available on the Web at www.mackinac.org/9504.