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Blue Water Isles Co. v. Department of Natural Resources

Citation: 19 ELR 20349
No. Nos. 90886, 90887, 431 N.W.2d 53/171 Mich. App. 526, (Mich. Ct. App., 07/12/1988)

The court upholds the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' (DNR's) denial of plaintiff's application for a permit under the Inland Lakes and Streams Act (ILSA) to dredge and fill 442 acres of marsh lands. The court first rejects plaintiff's argument that the ILSA is inapplicable on the grounds that the trial court allegedly made no finding that the marsh land was navigable. Plaintiff did not object to the statute's jurisdiction in the lower court proceedings. The court next holds that the trial court's finding that the DNR did not make a formal decision in 1974 to deny future permits in the affected area is supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence. The court then rejects plaintiff's claim that it was denied its right to an unbiased and impartial decisionmaker by DNR's dual role as the agency responsible for purchasing environmentally sensitive lands and for issuing development permits on these lands. Where quasi-judicial and quasi-legislative functions are performed by separate divisions within the same department, no deprivation of the right to an unbiased decisionmaker occurs. The court also finds that plaintiff failed to show actual or probable bias on the part of the DNR official responsible for plaintiff's permit application. The court next holds that the trial court did not err in applying standards under the state Wetland Protection and Environmental Protection Acts in addition to the ILSA. Lastly, the court holds that the permit denial did not constitute a taking of property requiring just compensation. Citing recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions, the court finds that the ILSA and the Wetland Protection Act, as well as the permit denial itself, were reasonably related to the state's preservation of its natural resources and the protection of the public trust in inland lakes and streams. The court also upholds the trial court's findings that there was no substantial depreciation in value of the plaintiff's land as a result of the permit denial and that various alternative uses of the land existed.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellant
John D. Pirich
Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone
One Michigan Ave., Ste. 900, Lansing MI 48933
(517) 487-2070

Counsel for Defendants-Appellees
Thomas J. Emery, Ass't Attorney General
Law Bldg., Lansing MI 48913
(517) 373-1110

Before MAHER, P.J., and DOCTOROFF and CONLIN,* JJ.