State Supreme Court Reaffirms Property Rights of Lakefront Owners

The Michigan Supreme Court gave all private property owners in the state a belated Christmas gift with a ruling handed down on Dec. 29, 2010, that reaffirms that landowners in Michigan still have private property rights. Voting 4-3, the Michigan Supreme Court reversed the 2000 Baum Family Trust v. Babel appellate court decision regarding riparian property rights along Lake Charlevoix. Justices Markman, Kelly, Corrigan and Young voted with the majority, while justices Davis, Cavanagh and Hathaway dissented.

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At issue in the case was whether owners of property fronting a lake but separated from the water by a public road have riparian rights to a portion of the lake. The lower courts had ruled that property owners with land fronting Lake Charlevoix did not posses riparian rights due to a platted road running parallel to the lake. The Michigan Supreme Court disagreed and reversed the decision of the lower courts.

Most people understand that secure private property rights are essential to their liberty as U.S. and Michigan citizens. It is less commonly understood that the protection of private property rights is essential to the economic rejuvenation of Michigan’s economy and the creation of jobs. Without the legal assurance of secure private property rights, it is difficult to attract private capital investment in the state — which is essential for job creation. The recent Michigan Supreme Court decision affirming the private property rights of Charlevoix lake front property owners is an important step in the right direction.