Michigan Town Fines Brothers $450,000 For Cutting Trees Down On Their Own Land

June 14, 2019
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Some ambitious brother’s thought they would be able to do anything on their land. But it turns out they thought wrong.

The br0thers, Gary and Matt Percy, decided to cut down all of the trees on their 16 acres of land and then use it as a Christmas tree farm. They thought this would be fine, as there is a local and state exemption when it comes to farming. The town of Canton, Michigan thought otherwise and fined the brothers nearly half a million dollars.

They are of course disputing it.

A heated dispute between Canton Township and two brothers who removed hundreds of trees from property they own — amid plans to start a Christmas tree farm — could be headed for a courtroom showdown.

Canton business owners and brothers Gary and Matt Percy could owe as much as $450,000 after township officials say they removed an estimated 1,500 trees  — without permission — from a 16-acre site they own on Canton’s south side.

Defying the township, the Percys already have started planting Christmas trees, according to their attorney, Michael J. Pattwell, who responded to questions Monday by email.

Pattwell said it’s still possible the two sides can reach “an agreeable resolution,” but the Percys aren’t backing down.

“We also are absolutely prepared to take this case into a courtroom,” he said. “The brothers are also moving forward with their plan to plant 2,500 Christmas trees on the property. Despite the township’s roadblocks, they have already planted 1,000 Christmas trees.”

“You don’t want government to have the power to shut down constitutional litigation that way,” said Weldon, who has been representing the brothers on behalf of the foundation, a conservative think tank. “They just kind of came at our clients with both barrels. You can’t do that. It violates our clients’ rights.”

Canton officials contend the tree ordinance, in general, has been in effect for years as a way to protect land in the township and to prevent developers from doing what they want without regulatory oversight.”

Kristin Kolb, the township’s corporation counsel, “said the situation is multi-pronged:

  • The Percys didn’t seek a permit to remove the trees. If they had, she said, they likely would have had to post a bond; agree to replace the trees on their property, in a park or elsewhere; or pay into Canton’s tree fund. The brothers could have opted for a combination of those options.
  • She said Canton requires 40 acres of land for a new farm, but the property in question is only 16 acres. She said it was bought and split off from a bigger, 40-acre site.
  • Kolb said the Percys would have to ask for a variance to have a farm and would need a rezoning, because the property is zoned industrial.”

Just more proof that you don’t really own anything anymore. It used to be that when you bought land, it was yours. You had the right to do whatever you wanted. But that was not good enough. Towns and cities need to make more money by requiring permits and other permissions. I guess taxes are not enough. This town is ridiculous, almost half a million for removing trees… What nonsense. Luckily the brothers are fighting this injustice. I hope they win.

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