What Began As A Dispute Over Christmas Trees Has Turned Into A Familys Fight For Their First Amendment Rights
Shelby Talcott | Contributor
- Two Michigan brothers are suing Canton Township after being hit with massive fines for taking down trees on land that the brothers own in an effort to develop a Christmas tree farm.
- The brothers believe that their First Amendment rights have been violated.
- Canton Township allegedly harassed the brothers after they went to the media with the story.
Two brothers in Michigan filed a First Amendment retaliation federal lawsuit against Canton Township Monday that began when the township imposed a $450,000 fee on them over Christmas trees.
Gary and Matt Percy are long-time business owners from Canton, Michigan. They acquired a 16-acre empty field that was “completely overgrown” with “scrubs, bush, and invasive species,” lead counsel Rob Henneke of the Texas Public Policy Foundation told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
The Percys cleaned out some of the overgrown land in 2018 with the idea to expand their business by having a Christmas tree farm. They cleared out 1,500 trees, according to Fox News. After doing so, they “received a violation notice from the township originally threatening them with $700k” in fines, Henneke said. The fines were later lowered to $450,000. Since then, they have allegedly become the subject of harassment from the township.
“Were like in the top five employers in Canton,” Gary Percy said to TheDCNF. “I live in Canton, my brother lives in Canton, our employees live in Canton…we pay a buttload of taxes.”
The Percy brothers are fighting back against the government for allegedly violating their First Amendment rights. (Photo courtesy of Texas Public Policy Foundation)
The Percy brothers are the founders of A.D. Transport Express Incorporated, a national trucking fleet with over 700 employees. They started this company in the mid 80s with just one truck.
“Its the epitome of the American dream and success story,” Henneke told TheDCNF.
The Percys began to fight back after the town hit them with fines by reaching out to state senators and contacting the media. In retribution, Canton Township has allegedly become retaliatory and abusive.
“Thats the beginning of when the township really began to be abusive and aggressive,” Henneke told TheDCNF. “They [Percy brothers] defended their rights.”
The townships city attorneys allegedly contacted the Percy brothers local counsel and told them that they should not have gone to the public. Shortly after, the Percy brothers began to get multiple code compliance officers coming to their business for inspections unrelated to the Christmas tree debacle. (RELATED: Melania Explains The Patriotic Christmas Decorations Throughout The White House)
“They started getting inspected…approximately a dozen times after they went public with their opposition to this tree issue,” Henneke said. “Theyve been in business for 30 years and have been at this facility the whole time and have not had any of this kind of scrutiny prior to this.”
These long-time business owners say that they have been the subject of retaliatory actions and harassment from Canton Township. (Photo courtesy of Texas Public Policy Foundation)
“Theyre really angry at us…theres not a court order that says we cant talk about it,” Gary said. “Theyre basically playing dirty pool here.”
The fire marshal has been to the Percys business about once in 30 years, according to Gary. In the past six months, he has been there at least a dozen times.
At the end of last year, the township continued their battle against the Percy brothers and stated that they werent sure if the brothers had a certificate of occupancy for their business buildings in Michigan.
“They have been in these buildings for…20 years, all permitted, all inspected, all approved,” Henneke told TheDCNF. “Its the obligation of the township to keep theRead More – Source