ELLIS v. CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS Civ. A. No. 5369.
257 F.Supp. 564 (1966)
Michael E. ELLIS, Plaintiff, v. CITY OF GRAND RAPIDS, a municipal corporation, and Mayor C. H. Sonneveldt, Leonard Anderson, Bernard Barto, Edward C. McCobb, Berton Sevensma, Joseph Sypniewski and William Worst, Commissioners for the City of Grand Rapids, and Donald O'Keefe, Urban Renewal Director for the City of Grand Rapids, and John Paul Jones, Planning Director for the City of Grand Rapids, individually and as officers, agents and employees of the City of Grand Rapids, Defendants.
United States District Court W. D. Michigan, S. D.
August 11, 1966.
Dutchess, Mika, Miles, Meyers & Snow, Grand Rapids, Mich., Wendell A. Miles, Grand Rapids, Mich., of counsel, for defendants.
FOX, District Judge.
This is a motion to dismiss in an action involving a Grand Rapids urban renewal project, commonly known as the Washington Square Urban Renewal Project.
Plaintiff, Michael E. Ellis, a resident of the City of East Grand Rapids, owns a medical office building located at 242 Jefferson Avenue, in the project area.
The defendants are the City of Grand Rapids, the Mayor, the City Commissioners, the Urban Renewal Director, and the Planning Director of the City of Grand Rapids, hereinafter referred to as the "City."
The plaintiff seeks a temporary and permanent injunction against the City to prevent it from implementing resolutions 17370-17374, adopted unanimously by the City Commission on May 17, 1966. Resolution 17370 authorized the filing of an application for a loan and grant from the Housing and Home Finance Agency pursuant to Title I of the Housing Act of 1949, as amended. Resolution 17371 states, among other things, that the area is blighted and is an eligible project area under Act 344 of the Public Acts of Michigan of 1945, as amended, and that in addition to the elimination of blight and slums in the area in question, the undertaking of the project in such area will further promote the public welfare and proper development of the community. Resolution 17373 approved the adoption of "Final Project Report, City of Grand Rapids, Michigan, Part 1— Application for Loan and Grant, Final Project Report, Project No. Michigan R-141, April 1966, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Binder No. 6," hereafter referred to as "Binder No. 6." (Binder No. 6 is plaintiff's Exhibit 1.)
In addition, there are specific findings recited in Resolution 17373 which establish that the area constitutes a serious hazard to the public health, welfare and safety of the City of Grand Rapids and its inhabitants.
On June 23, 1966, the plaintiff filed his complaint, alleging that he had been denied equal protection and due process of the laws as guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, and Article 1, Sections 2 and 17 of the Constitution of the State of Michigan, and that the proposed project violates the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, and Article 1, Section 4 of the Constitution of the State of Michigan. The City then filed a motion to dismiss.
After a hearing on the City's motion, and pursuant to the instructions of the court, both parties submitted briefs which thoroughly discussed all of the issues raised in the pleadings and at the hearing. When the briefs had been submitted to the court, a meeting was held in Chambers, at which time the parties were given a final opportunity to bring to the court's attention any other matters they felt would be relevant.
Because matters outside the pleadings were presented to and not excluded by the court, under Rule 12(b) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure the defendants' motion to dismiss is treated as one for summary judgment and disposed of as provided in Rule 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The City is at the threshold of a development and improvement project which will affect an area of approximately three city blocks. The boundaries are Jefferson Avenue on the west, Wealthy Street on the south, Lafayette on the east, and Cherry Street on the north, excluding St. Mary's Hospital located on the northeast corner of the area, and certain commercial properties located on the northwest and southwest corners.
This Project is designed within the planning proposals included in the adopted Master Plan of the City of Grand Rapids, which indicates that the general land use for the area is to be semi-public or institutional, in the form of a hospital and related uses. The City proposes to develop a complete Medical Center.
The project area will act as the southern terminal of a more extensive program to the north in the form of a college and cultural center and additional hospital and medical complex to the north and east of the central business district. These proposals, together, are designed to define, delimit and strengthen the central business district, as well as to contribute to the overall objectives of the City's Master Plan for Urban Renewal.
The objectives of the plan are: to remove serious blight and deterioration in the Washington Square neighborhood; to rid the community of an area of obsolete and substandard structures; to modify the obsolete streetpattern within the Washington Square neighborhood; to provide residential uses; and to improve the general neighborhood through the establishment of a major medical center south of the central business district.
In Count I of the complaint, plaintiff alleges that he has been denied equal protection of the law by the inclusion of
Specifically, the plaintiff asserts that his property meets the same tests employed by the City in excluding an automobile dealership located at the northwest corner of the project on Jefferson Avenue and Cherry Street, a restaurant and bar near the southwest corner on Jefferson Avenue, and a drug store at the southwest corner of Jefferson Avenue and Wealthy Street, hereafter referred to as the "Jefferson Avenue commercial properties."
Moreover, plaintiff asserts that John Paul Jones, Planning Director of the City of Grand Rapids, at a public hearing on the proposed project on April 26, 1966, held pursuant to Michigan Statutes Annotated 5.3504, Comp.Laws Supp.1961, § 125.74, could not explain why two apartment buildings directly behind the plaintiff's property were not included in the project and scheduled for condemnation.
According to the plaintiff's affidavit attached to his complaint, the Planning Director gave the following reasons why the three Jefferson Avenue commercial properties were excluded: (1) they are located on the edge of the project; (2) they are adjacent to and across the street from other commercial property; and (3) they are not blighted. Plaintiff also contends that because his medical office is compatible with the proposed medical center, this is a further reason why his property should not be condemned.
First, as to the apartment buildings, it is clear from a study of Binder No. 6 that the apartment buildings do not come within the project boundaries. According to Berman v. Parker,
In Berman, the Court said:
Furthermore, the apartment buildings are scheduled to be demolished by St. Mary's Hospital. See Binder No. 6, Demolition Plan, Exhibit G, Code No. R-224. It is insignificant whether the apartment buildings will be demolished by the City of Grand Rapids or by St. Mary's Hospital. In either case the result is the same.
With respect to the Jefferson Avenue commercial properties, they are listed in Binder No. 6 as "properties for which treatment has not been determined." At Page 11 of Code R-213 of Binder No. 6, it is stated that these properties will be acquired for redevelopment unless they conform to the Renewal Plan. Accordingly, the plaintiff is premature in asserting that these properties are to be excluded from condemnation.
Second, all three properties are on or near the corners of the project, while plaintiff's property, although on the periphery, is in the middle of the project. Third, in the proposed redevelopment plan as set out in Binder No. 6, plaintiff's property is in the middle of the project area designated as a Plaza Park. It is to be acquired by the City for public use in furtherance of urban beautification. It is clear that the plaintiff's medical office building is incompatible with the Master Plan as manifested in Binder No. 6.
Berman, supra, teaches that because some land will subsequently be used for professional office buildings, this is insufficient justification for exclusion of the plaintiff's property. Urban renewal is renewal of a whole area in accordance with a specific plan. If each property owner within a chosen area were allowed to successfully attack the plan as plaintiff attempts to do here, urban
Fourth, in Carver Progressive Club v. Miriani,
Plaintiff cites Foster v. Hurley, D.C.,
Finally, as plaintiff has admitted in his briefs, it is unnecessary for property to be blighted in order for it to be condemned in urban renewal projects. Michigan Statutes Annotated 5.3502(A), Comp.Laws Supp.Mich. § 125.72; In re Edward J. Jeffries Homes Housing Project, etc., 306 Mich. 638, 11 N.W.2d 272 (1943); Berman v. Parker, supra.
Therefore, we hold that as a matter of law the plaintiff has not been denied equal protection of his rights under either the Constitution of Michigan, or the Constitution of the United States. Moreover, in Michigan the jurors in a condemnation proceeding address themselves to two questions: necessity and compensation. Accordingly, if the plaintiff is able to establish that there is no need to take his property, the City will be precluded from acquiring it.
Plaintiff also alleges in Count I that from sometime in 1964, the threat of condemnation and the actions of the City have constituted an unlawful taking of the plaintiff's property. If the plaintiff can establish this at the condemnation proceedings, he will be entitled to compensation from 1964 under the authority of In re Elmwood Park Project Section 1, Group B,
Plaintiff raises two distinct issues in Count II. First, can a private sectarian hospital participate as a principal redeveloper in an urban renewal program such as the one in question? Second, did the defendants act in such a manner so as to make St. Mary's Hospital's successful bid to be the principal redeveloper of the project a foregone conclusion?
With respect to the first issue, if St. Mary's Hospital is the successful bidder, it is apparent that St. Mary's Hospital will enjoy a benefit in the sense that it will have the opportunity to purchase properties within the area for a lower price than it would have to pay if it had to negotiate with the private owners on an individual basis. The private owners, including the plaintiff, will of course receive full compensation from the City for their properties.
In a case similar to this, involving a church-related University, the Court in response to the contention that the University would receive a benefit, said:
The position St. Mary's Hospital would have as a redeveloper is exactly the same as that of any other redeveloper. On the other hand, because of the credits which St. Mary's Hospital has accumulated under Section 112 of the Housing Act, 42 U.S.C.A. § 1463, the cost of the project as far as the City is concerned, will be considerably less. Whatever St. Mary's Hospital has paid for land and buildings will be credited to the City's share of the project cost, which in turn, determines the federal allotment. Thus, the more St. Mary's Hospital has paid, the less the City will pay, and the less the City of Grand Rapids pays, the more the United States Government pays.
Therefore, it is conceivable that if St. Mary's Hospital's credits are sufficient, and it is chosen as the primary redeveloper, the entire cost of the project could be borne by St. Mary's Hospital and the Federal Government. These facts alone would normally be sufficient to dispose of the plaintiff's argument that public power and funds are being used in aid of a "private sectarian" hospital. However, we hold that participation by a private sectarian hospital as a redeveloper in an urban renewal project is not unconstitutional.
In Berman v. Parker, the Court said at 348 U.S. 33-34, 75 S.Ct. 102, 99 L.Ed. 38:
Further on the Court said at 348 U.S. 34-35, 75 S.Ct. 103, 99 L.Ed. 38-39:
See also In re Slum Clearance in City of Detroit,
That some of the properties to be condemned were to be used later by private persons for private uses, was, in the opinion of the Court, irrelevant. Indeed, the fact that some of the land might be allocated to churches was also considered unimportant.
Again in Berman v. Parker, the Court said at 348 U.S. 32, 75 S.Ct. 102, 99 L.Ed. 37:
Therefore, it is obvious that the private uses which will finally be involved after a redevelopment project has been implemented are of an incidental or ancillary character, and that of paramount importance is the established public purpose of beautification and redevelopment. Once this primary purpose has been established, it is generally irrelevant what incidental or secondary purposes are involved. The possibility that plaintiff's or any person's property in the area may subsequently be sold to St. Mary's Hospital is inconsequential.
Once the area has been reclaimed and cleared, and is available for development, the public purpose has been fulfilled.
In Harrison-Halsted Com. Group v. Housing & Home Finance Agency, 7 Cir.,
Lest the facts in the case at bar become confused, it is noted that the use which St. Mary's Hospital intends to put the land to is neither a private nor a religious use. The proposed use is conspicuously a public secular use. In Binder No. 6, the proposed uses are listed, and they are in every particular non-religious and public in scope.
Harrison-Halsted, supra, teaches it is a sufficient "public use and a public purpose" to proceed with the clearing of a blighted area through urban renewal development. Where an institution, such as a hospital, is the ultimate redeveloper and user, an additional public use exists.
Professor Arthur Sutherland of Harvard University Law School in a letter to House Speaker John W. McCormack,
St. Mary's Hospital is devoted to a public use in its service to the community at large. In the administration of the hospital, any and all persons are admitted irrespective of their race, creed, color, or religion. This hospital service is a secular and public service.
When Thomas Jefferson authored the Declaration of Independence, he changed the triology of prime inalienable rights of man from "life, liberty and property," as enunciated in the Magna Charta, to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."
The Continental Congress adopted this triology when it made the Declaration of Independence, America's first clear statement of its purposes and policies as a free people. The Declaration of the Continental Congress concisely articulates that the inalienable rights of man come from the hand of their Creator, and not as a gift from a benign government.
Thomas Jefferson included the health of a free people as a specific right in "our pursuit of happiness," when he said:
(Quoted by President Johnson in a special message to Congress on the Nation's Health, 111 Congressional Record 400 (H. Doc. No. 44) Jan. 7, 1965.) This high priority has prevailed in both public and private values throughout the history of this country.
The health of the people was in the minds of our forefathers when they wrote the Preamble of the Constitution of the United States:
The health of free people is forever present in the minds of free men. Although this concern springs from the religious nature of our people and the predisposition of that nature to corporal works of mercy, nonetheless it has been, and is, a prime sectarian and public service. When public, private and sectarian hospitals practice mercy toward men, they at the same time perform prime sectarian works and incomparable public services. Eliminate hospitals from our cities and our cities would vanish.
Promotion and improvement of our people's health is a corresponding duty to our inalienable right to the "pursuit of happiness;" it is a fundamental obligation of governments, national, state
Our Presidents and Governors likewise have urged and executed laws for the improvement of public health.
All have recognized that hospital care provided by public, private, and private sectarian nonprofit institutions is a public use clothed with an overriding
Thus, we see that the concerted effort for renewal and expansion of hospital and medical care centers as a part of our nation's system of hospitals, is as a public service and use within the highest meaning of such terms.
Surely this is in accord with an objective of the United States Constitution: "* * * promote the general Welfare."
In the last half of the second decade of the twentieth century, it is far too late to deny that hospital service for the benefit of all the people, whoever they may be, is not a public service, and that the use of properties and facilities for health purposes is not a public use.
The overwhelming weight of history is to the contrary.
Obviously, the primary purpose of the project is to promote and serve the public welfare by assuring that the City will have adequate medical and hospital facilities to meet its present and future demands.
Plaintiff says that but for St. Mary's Hospital there would be no Washington Square Project. Plaintiff misconceives the compelling motivation for the City's action. It is the public need of the people for hospital services in this community and the nation which demands expansion and improvement of hospital facilities and the establishment of medical centers. It is the blighted condition of the area involved which calls for renewal. Through the project the City will accomplish two public purposes: removal of blight, and the establishment of a much needed medical center.
St. Mary's Hospital is unquestionably an integral part of the available hospital resources of the City. The City definitely has the right to act in the interest of the general public welfare even if this has the incidental and indirect effect of benefiting a religious interest.
As was stated in Everson v. Board of Education,
The situation in the case at bar is in many respects analogous to the facts in McGowan v. State of Maryland, supra. There the Supreme Court of the United States held that despite their religious origin, Sunday closing laws were constitutional since their purpose had become secular, that is, to provide a uniform day of rest for all of the citizens of the State. Mr. Chief Justice Warren speaking for the Court, said:
Although the treatment of patients by church-affiliated hospitals may not have always been secular in nature, it is evident that today such treatment is completely devoid of any religious significance.
In Lien v. City of Ketchikan, Alaska, supra, the city had leased a hospital constructed with state, federal and local funds to a religious order for a term of
See also Abernathy v. City of Irvine, Kentucky, supra; Kentucky Bldg. Comm. v. Effron, supra.
In Kentucky Bldg. Comm. v. Effron, the court said, in upholding the use of state funds for the construction of nonprofit hospitals, including a private sectarian hospital:
Finally, if St. Mary's Hospital were denied the right to participate in the project, this could raise serious constitutional questions as to whether its right to equal protection and freedom of religion had been violated. Sherbert v. Verner,
By the second issue in Count II, plaintiff has in effect alleged that the City has already predetermined that St. Mary's Hospital will be the primary redeveloper in violation of M.S.A. 5.3501 et seq., Comp.Laws Mich.1948, § 125.71 et seq., which provides for free and open competitive bidding among potential redevelopers.
In order to understand the relationship between St. Mary's Hospital and the City, a brief explanation of how Section 112 of the Housing Act operates is necessary.
The City has applied for a loan and grant under this Section. Section 112 provides in part that:
In order for the City to be eligible for a grant or loan, it had to assure the Housing and Home Finance Agency that the land would be used for public and nonprofit institutional uses. Chapter 14-3-3
By submitting Binder No. 6 to the Regional Director of the Urban Renewal Department of Housing and Urban Development and including not only its plans, but the plans of St. Mary's Hospital, the City complied with the above procedures. It in no way committed or bound itself to St. Mary's Hospital as the principal redeveloper of the project.
Indeed, Chapter 14-1-1 of the Urban Renewal Manual requires that disposals of project land be made in an open and fair way:
In Kintzele v. City of St. Louis, Mo.,
See also 64th St. Residences v. City of New York,
From a full consideration of the contents of Binder No. 6 it is evident that St. Mary's Hospital is plainly in the position of a nonprofit institution which has tendered an offer to become a redeveloper of part of the proposed project. There is evidence of thinking, exploration, and recognition of possibilities and probabilities of prospective redevelopment between St. Mary's Hospital and the City.
These circumstances, however, do not ripen into a contract between St. Mary's Hospital and the City. A redeveloper's contract can only become final and valid after the City acquires fee simple title and conforms to all the procedural requirements of state and federal laws, rules and regulations.
St. Mary's Hospital is in the same position today, namely, a bidder hopeful of becoming a redeveloper, as were Old Kent Bank and Trust Company, Union Bank & Trust Company, or the Grand Rapids Press before condemnation and clearance of land in the central core of the City of Grand Rapids commonly known
The Hospital's location "in or near an urban renewal project area," and the preservation of its credit rating under Section 112 of the Housing Act may place it in a position of possibly or probably being best suited to develop the land to its maximum use in conformance with the declared objectives of the urban renewal plan as a medical center.
It is prudent for the City to achieve maximum benefits at minimum costs, to utilize existing community resources, and to obtain the highest bid for acquired urban renewal land.
Plaintiff's emphasis on the fact that seven structures owned by St. Mary's Hospital in Block I were counted in Binder No. 6 in determining whether the area was blighted, but excluded from condemnation, ignores the scope of Section 112. All of the seven structures are scheduled to be cleared and redeveloped by St. Mary's Hospital if it is chosen as a redeveloper. Congress contemplated this kind of result when it passed Section 112.
The Berman court held "the public end" may be better served by a private agency than by a department of government — or so the Congress might determine. Berman v. Parker, supra, page 11, at 348 U.S. 33-34, 75 S.Ct. 98.
By Section 112 of the Housing Act, Congress has determined that it is in the public interest to permit money spent for land acquisition and clearance by an educational institution or a hospital located in or near the urban renewal project area to be a part of the general urban renewal plan, if the governing body of the locality determines that will promote the "general welfare."
Again, plaintiff is premature in asserting his claim raised by the second issue contained in Count II of his complaint.
In Count III of his complaint, plaintiff alleges that he has been denied due process of the law. The Supreme Court in Berman, supra, answered plaintiff's claim in this Count when Justice Douglas, speaking for a unanimous court, said:
Of course, this language applies with equal force to the Fourteenth Amendment issue in the instant case.
Due process is secured to the plaintiff by the procedural safeguards provided in Michigan's condemnation laws (M.S.A. 8.11, et seq. Comp.Laws Mich.1948, § 213.21) which require the impanelling of a jury to resolve questions of necessity and just compensation.
Additional reasons have been urged by the plaintiff for relief in a federal court action. We have considered them and hold them to be without merit.
Also, the City has presented additional reasons in support of its motion; however, in view of our holdings, we shall not discuss them.
For the reasons stated in this opinion, we find no genuine question of fact on the federal issues raised by plaintiff in this case. A summary judgment is granted in favor of defendants by reason of Rules 12(b) and 56 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure.
The defendants are directed forthwith to prepare a proposed summary judgment in accordance with this opinion.
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