Amicus Brief

City of Taylor v Detroit Edison

Case Year: 2006
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: rights of way, right of way, Constitution, undergrounding, utilities, police power
Amicus Counsel:

David W. Centner (P43071) | Ann E. Liefer (P66520) | Law, Weathers & Richardson PC | 800 Bridgewater Place | 333 Bridge Street NW | Grand Rapids, Michigan 49504-5320 | 616-459-1171

CoAmicus Parties:

Michigan Townships Association (MTA)


For the last century, Michigan’s townships, cities and villages have acted in reliance on their constitutional rights, their police powers, and the limited, regulatory role of administrative agencies like the MPSC. Detroit Edison seeks to broadly expand utilities’ rights and MPSC jurisdiction to the detriment of the constitutional rights guaranteed to Michigan’s municipalities. Where a municipality required undergrounding of utility lines in a heavily congested area, where undergrounding was
required as part of a major public improvement project, where there was a history of public safety issues, where substantial public finances were devoted to the project, and where
public safety, health, and welfare considerations were taken into consideration, the City of Taylor acted within its constitutional and statutory rights and reasonably under the
circumstances by requiring Detroit Edison to relocate the utility lines and facilities underground and pay for the relocation.


Michigan Supreme Court:
We granted leave to appeal in this case to reconcile plaintiff’s constitutional authority to exercise “reasonable control” over its streets with the Michigan Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) broad regulatory control over public utilities. Consistent with our longstanding precedent, we hold that a municipality’s exercise of “reasonable control” over its streets cannot impinge on matters of statewide concern nor can a municipality regulate in a manner inconsistent with state law. In this case, the MPSC has promulgated uniform rules governing the relocation of utility wires underground. To the degree plaintiff’s ordinance on this subject conflicts with the MPSC’s rules, the ordinance exceeds plaintiff’s power to exercise “reasonable control” over its streets and is invalid. Furthermore, because the question of allocation of costs for the relocation of utility wires underground falls under the primary jurisdiction of the MPSC, that entity should be the first to consider this dispute. We reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand to the Wayne Circuit Court to enter an order granting summary disposition to defendant. The dismissal is without prejudice to plaintiff’s right to seek a remedy before the MPSC.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

In the fall of 1999, the City of Taylor (plaintiff) and the Michigan Department of Transportation planned for a major reconstruction project of a fourmile portion of Telegraph Road that intersects the city. The project called for major infrastructure improvements, including the underground relocation of all utility wires along Telegraph Road. Under the proposal, the Detroit Edison Company’s (defendant) utility poles along Telegraph Road would be removed and their wires relocated underground. Defendant agreed to relocate the lines underground, but would not agree to bear the costs of that effort. When the parties’ negotiations failed, plaintiff enacted Taylor Ordinance 00-344, the “Telegraph Road Improvement and Underground Relocation of Overhead Lines Ordinance.” Section 3 of that ordinance requires all public utilities with lines or poles adjacent to Telegraph Road “to relocate underground all of their overhead lines and wires and remove all
poles and related overhead facilities equipment at their sole cost and expense and at no cost or expense to the City.”1 After plaintiff enacted the ordinance, the parties continued to discuss the dispute, but could not come to an amicable resolution. Ultimately, plaintiff agreed to advance the cost of relocating the wires underground, but reserved its rights to enforce the ordinance against defendant and seek reimbursement.

Case Number: 2004-11
©2022 Michigan Municipal League LLC. All rights reserved