This is an original action in mandamus in which the City of Charleston, a municipal corporation of the State of West Virginia, seeks to require its clerk, Kenneth L. Coghill, to publish a certain notice inviting proposals from all persons interested in purchasing or leasing space included in a proposed off-street parking facility in Charleston. Respondent Coghill was authorized and directed to perform this duty by resolution No. 228-73 which was adopted by the Charleston City Council on April 2, 1973.
The respondent clerk has refused to publish the notice upon the ground that Chapter 8, Article 16, Section 4a of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, which gives authority to municipal corporations to construct motor vehicle parking facilities, is unconstitutional. If Code, 8-16-4a is constitutional, then the City Clerk has a nondiscretionary legal duty to publish the notice as directed by the council. The purpose of this litigation is to test the validity under the State and Federal Constitutions of the enabling legislation, Code, 8-16-4a, in order to facilitate the preparation of plans and orderly financing for a project in Charleston. In similar cases this Court has permitted an action in mandamus to be used as a vehicle for testing the constitutionality of a statute. State ex rel. State Building Commission v. Moore, W.Va., 184 S.E.2d 94 (1971); State ex rel. County Court v. Demus, 148 W.Va. 398, 135 S.E.2d 352 (1964); State ex rel. County Court v. Bane, 148 W.Va. 392, 135 S.E.2d 349 (1964).
The respondent clerk first maintains that the Legislature's delegation of authority to a municipal corporation to determine the amount of space in a public parking facility which will be leased or sold for private business, commercial, or charitable uses is an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power. While noticing that respondent's position finds its source in the well known constitutional principle that a legislature may not abdicate its legislative power, it has also long been established law that a legislature may delegate legislative powers to municipal corporations as to matters of purely local concern. 16 Am.Jur.2d, Constitutional Law § 251. This Court said in Syllabus pt. 1 of West Virginia Water Service Company v. Cunningham, 143 W.Va. 1, 98 S.E.2d 891 (1957):
This Court, therefore, holds that the Legislature is entitled to delegate power to a municipal corporation to determine the appropriate mix of public and private uses of a public parking facility, subject to the constitutional limits on the municipality's discretion which will be further discussed in this opinion.
Courts are bound, except in extraordinary cases, by the findings made by the Legislature, and, "[a] fact once determined by the legislature, and made the basis of a legislative act, is not thereafter opened to judicial investigation." State ex rel. West Virginia Housing Development Fund v. Copenhaver, 153 W.Va. 636, 171 S.E.2d 545 (1969).
Prior decisions of this Court have continuously enlarged the sphere of permissible government action in what was formerly considered exclusively the private sector. In Chapman v. Housing Authority, 121 W.Va. 319, 3 S.E.2d 502 (1939) this Court held valid the West Virginia Housing Act which had as its primary purpose slum clearance. In State ex rel. West Virginia Housing Development Fund v. Copenhaver, supra, this Court held constitutional Chapter 31, Article 18, Section 1 et seq. of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, which provided for the West Virginia Housing Development Fund. The Fund had as its purpose an increase in the amount of housing available to West Virginia residents. Similarly in County Court v. Demus, supra, this Court reviewed the Industrial Development Bond Act, Chapter 13, Article 2C, Section 1 et seq. of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, which permitted a county or municipality to acquire property for the purpose of leasing it for industrial purposes, and this Court again found the legislation to be without constitutional infirmities. These cases clearly establish the broad sphere of permissible governmental activity in areas where the Legislature determines that government action is a necessary supplement to private enterprise to alleviate social problems. Public parking is among the public purposes on which the Legislature may direct or authorize government action. Wilmington Parking Authority v. Ranken, 34 Del.Ch. 439, 105 A.2d 614 (1954).
The constitutionality of the enabling legislation would be easily determined if it only authorized construction of facilities to be used exclusively for public parking. However, Code, 8-16-4a(b) expressly provides that a municipality may sell or lease to private individuals space for commercial, business, or charitable purposes within the public parking facility. The question with reference to this provision is whether the enabling legislation establishes sufficiently definite constitutional standards of public purpose to sustain the statute.
It is argued by respondent that adequate standards are not established by Code, 8-16-4a to assure that any private use of a municipal parking facility will be ancillary and incidental to the underlying public purpose. There is some merit to this argument as Code, 8-16-4a grants broad statutory authority to a municipality to build a parking facility and places no limitations on the respective proportions of space dedicated to public parking and private use. Code, 8-16-4a(b)(1) and (2) say:
In the landmark case of Wilmington Parking Authority v. Ranken, supra, the Delaware statute which authorized the parking authority only permitted leasing for commercial use to the extent that such leasing was necessary and feasible to finance and operate the facilities. This established a definite test for determining the extent to which private activities might be mixed with public ones; however, in West Virginia the Legislature has given the municipality more latitude which we hold to be valid. Economic considerations are not the sole criteria for determining whether commercial sale or leasing are necessary and ancillary to the public purpose. As noted above, West Virginia has incorporated other public policy objectives into other sections of the law. For example, Chapter 16, Article 18, Section 1 et seq. of the Code of West Virginia, 1931, as amended, provides for urban renewal authorities. Certainly the creation of aesthetically appealing, convenient, and efficient downtown urban centers is a public purpose and may be considered in determining the validity of a particular parking facility. The development of modern urban centers with open spaces, fountains, and malls in which people may gather and enjoy an enhanced social and intellectual life is a public purpose. Therefore, if any given parking facility project is challenged on the constitutional grounds of lack of public purpose a court must look to an expansive definition of public purpose and evaluate the project in terms of (1) the necessity of commercial sale or leasing of space to finance the parking facility; (2) the degree to which the facility will enhance or implement any pre-existing or proposed general plan of urban development and renewal; and (3) the degree to which the proposed project will enhance the State's public policy of encouraging economic development and the expansion of industry and commerce. Where it appears as a matter of fact that a proposed parking authority is merely a disguise for individual profit, a court is entitled to strike down the enterprise.
In the case of City and County of San Francisco v. Ross, 270 P.2d 488 (Cal.App. 1954) the California Court held that the acquisition of land by a city for the purpose of leasing it to an entrepreneur for the construction of parking facilities was unconstitutional where the city, by the terms of the lease, abdicated its right to control the charge for parking and left the entrepreneur free to charge such rates as the traffic would bear. Similarly, in the case of Price v. Philadelphia Parking Authority, 422 Pa. 317, 221 A.2d 138 (1966) where the Philadelphia Parking Authority was to construct a garage at an estimated cost of between eight and nine million dollars, the Pennsylvania Court struck down the proposal because it was a disguised attempt to effect a private purpose. The garage
Therefore, any abuse of Code, 8-16-4a with reference to a proposed facility is still subject to challenge on the facts of the individual case. The plan of the municipality should not be invalidated by the courts, "unless the judicial mind conceives [the project] to be without reasonable relation to the public interest or welfare. . . ." Faulconer v. City of Danville, 313 Ky. 468, 232 S.W.2d 80 (1950).
In the case at bar, respondent further challenges Code, 8-16-4a upon the grounds that exempting from taxation municipally owned parking facilities and the bonds and interest which finance such a facility, violates Sections 1 and 9 of Article 10 of the Constitution of the State of West Virginia where part of the facilities are used for private business. Sections 1 and 9 of Article 10 of the Constitution of West Virginia provide, in applicable part, as follows:
This Court was confronted with the same issue of taxation in Chapman v. Housing Authority, supra, where the Housing Authority Act contained language which exempted from taxation property, including bonds, notes and other evidence of indebtedness of local housing authorities. This Court ruled that whether the property sought to be declared exempt from taxation was "public property" in the sense of the term as used in Section 1 of Article 10 depended upon whether such property was used to further a "public purpose." In Chapman the Court held that slum clearance and low-cost housing advanced a public purpose, and that the property held or used in connection with such a purpose by a housing authority was "public property within the meaning of the West Virginia Constitution and should be exempt from taxation."
It is settled law in West Virginia that bonds or other obligations of a public corporation, the proceeds of which are used to fulfill a public purpose, may be properly exempted from taxation. In Bates v. State Bridge Commission, 109 W.Va. 186, 153 S.E. 305 (1939) this Court stated that revenue bonds used to finance the building of a bridge are exempt from taxation. The Court said at p. 189, 153 S.E. at p. 307:
In the case of County Court v. Demus, supra, this Court upheld the statutory exemption from taxation for industrial development bonds. In that case the Court said 148 W.Va. at p. 406, 135 S.E.2d at p. 358:
The last challenge made by the respondent to Code, 8-16-4a is that a municipality's operation of a facility in which a portion of the facility is devoted to private business, violates Sections 9 and 10 of Article III of the Constitution of West Virginia and the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Respondent argues that because such facilities are in competition with private persons providing a similar service, there is a denial of equal protection of the laws and a taking of property for private purposes without due process.
The ability of local governments to engage in a business previously dominated by private enterprise has been firmly established by the courts, particularly where the public welfare is involved. In Puget Sound Company v. City of Seattle, 291 U.S. 619, 54 S.Ct. 542, 78 L.Ed. 1025 (1933), the Supreme Court considered a challenge by a private power company to a state-authorized city powerplant which not only competed with private enterprise, but also held favored tax status by virtue of local ordinances. The Supreme Court said at page 624, 54 S.Ct. at page 545:
The case of Chapman v. Housing Authority, supra, holds that the conferring of a private benefit upon a limited number of individuals to further a predominantly public purpose, does not invalidate the project merely because all similarly situated individuals cannot receive similar benefits. The Court said in Chapman, 121 W.Va. at page 347, 3 S.E.2d at page 515:
For the reasons set forth in this opinion we find that Code, 8-16-4a which
HADEN, Justice (dissenting):
I respectfully dissent from the views expressed in the majority opinion.
For laudable reasons and accompanied by elaborate legislative findings and declarations of constitutionally valid purposes beneficial to the public, the Legislature adopted West Virginia Code, Chapter 8, Article 16, Section 4a, as amended. This statute delegates to municipalities authorization and means to construct motor vehicle parking facilities through the issuance of revenue bonds which may be underwritten and amortized by leases of the parking facilities and by leases or sales of the air space over the land appurtenant to the parking facility to private developers and others for "business, commercial or charitable use.. . ."
Like the majority, I have no quarrel with the finding that provision for additional parking facilities within a municipality is a public purpose. That, however, begs the more basic questions.
The statute explicitly delegates the legislative power as follows:
. . . . .
The statute also says that the city can accomplish the sale or lease of the property as follows:
I note, as the majority has acknowledged, the statute making the delegation of power to the city is absolutely devoid of standards, conditioning or limiting the city's right to lease or sell property previously dedicated to a public use, for that which may become a predominantely private use.
Relevant to that point, one must also consider the fact that the delegation made to the city in Code 1931, 8-16-4a, as amended, is accompanied by the power of eminent domain which also permits the city to acquire private property for the purposes of constructing a municipal parking facility to be leased and sold as indicated in the foregoing Code section. Code 1931, 8-16-8, as amended.
Thus, for an admittedly valid purpose, the Legislature purports to permit any municipality within the State of West Virginia to do that which the Legislature itself is not permitted to do: Acquire private property through the processes of eminent domain for a public purpose; and contemporaneously, subvert the public purpose to a private purpose, by lease or sale of the acquired public property to private developers for their devotion to predominately private purposes, without limitation whatsoever.
Aside from the fact that this Court is not authorized to issue advisory opinions, it also appears that mandamus is hardly the proper remedy to control hypothetical, and merely prospective, intentions of municipal officers.
The majority then purports to cure the imperfections of the legislation previously acknowledged by unconscionably encroaching upon the doctrine of separation of powers. The Court supplies judicially-created standards to the statute so that the otherwise unconstitutional delegation of legislative power will be fleshed out with a set of standards requisite to a complete statute. The following surely represents a blatant example of "judicial legislation:"
This is followed by a final tongue-in-cheek caveat:
Obviously, the City of Charleston through its prospective bond counsel, would not have brought this statute to court for interpretation were it not for the fact that certain provisions of the Constitution give one pause for reflection before making a substantial investment in the construction of an authorized facility. As aptly expressed by counsel for respondent in his able brief: "It is well known that constitutional provisions directly affect the extent of permissible delegation."
In my opinion, permissible delegation is that which is accompanied by standards adequate to notify the delegate to proceed without proceeding unlawfully. In the context of lawfulness, no body of law should be more respected than the Constitution, which is the organic and subsisting source document representing the will of the people. Among other things, this document says that the power to legislate reposes solely in the Legislature. W.Va.Const. art. VI, § 1. Secondly, private property may be acquired through governmental processes only for a public purpose. W.Va.Const. art. III, § 9. Third, while the judiciary may approve or disapprove, it may not legislate to supply standards omitted from public policy as declared by the Legislature. W.Va.Const. art. V, § 1; art. VI, § 1; art. VIII, § 1. Where a delegate agency is clothed with the colorable authority to take property for a predominately private purpose under the guise of eminent domain, the invalidity inheres in the grant of authority rather than within the potential act of the delegate. Hench v. Pritt, 62 W.Va. 270, 57 S.E. 808, 125 Am.St.R. 966 (1907). Such invalidity, although curable by the delegator of legislative power, cannot be constitutionally remedied by the judiciary.
For these rather basic reasons, I find it necessary to disagree with the decision of the majority.