2019-2020 Michigan planning and zoning court cases are available

The annual 2020 summary of Michigan planning and zoning court cases is now available to the public.

A map of Michigan

From May 2019 to May 2020, courts made decisions on a wide range of topics including marijuana, wedding barns, riparian rights, tribal sovereignty, civil rights in zoning enforcement, open meetings, and short-term rentals.   

Staying abreast of state and federal court decisions helps the planning community reduce risk and consider alternatives when developing policy and regulation for Michigan communities. The 2019-2020 summary of select Michigan planning and zoning court cases includes cases from the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Court of Appeals, the U.S. Supreme Court, and federal district courts. There are many cases included in the summary—just a handful are highlighted here.

From the Michigan Supreme Court, DeRuiter v. Township of Byron (case citations are in the document) provided a departure from past rulings that significantly hampered local zoning’s authority to regulate caregiver/grower activities within the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (2008). In Paquin v. St. Ignace, the court ruled that federally recognized Indian tribes are not a “local government”—the opinion recognizes that the tribe’s right to retain self-governance is not the same as a local government. 

Reaume v. Spring Lake is a published Michigan Court of Appeals case that provides clarity going forward that a short-term rental is considered a commercial use and is not a nonconforming residential use. The Michigan Supreme Court upheld this decision in a June 5, 2020 opinion (No. 159874).

There were two cases involving removal of individuals from a public meeting for failing to follow meeting standards and rules, Holeton v. City of Livonia (MI Court of Appeals) and Youkhanna v. City of Sterling Heights (US Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit). These cases, while different, allege Open Meetings Act violations and 1st and 14th amendment constitutional challenges to freedom of speech and equal protection.

A longstanding wedding barn issue was decided in Nixon v. Webster Township (MI Court of Appeals), when the Webster Township Zoning Board of Appeals decision “to exclude the definition of wedding barns from the term seasonal agri-tourism” was authorized by law and supported by competent, material and substantial evidence. 

In the Michigan Court of Appeals published case, Quality Market v. City of Detroit Board of Zoning Appeals, the court underscored that there is not authority to extend the 30-day deadline for appeal under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act MCL 125.3606(3), regardless of the date of approval for the minutes.

For regular updates on planning and zoning related court cases, attorney general opinions, legislation, research, and training opportunities, MSU Extension provides an email listserve for professional planners, zoning administrators, municipal attorneys, and others. For information about that service, contact the author.  

Previous year court summaries are also available:

2018-2019 planning and zoning court cases

2017-2018 planning and zoning court cases

2016-2017 planning and zoning court cases

2015-2016 planning and zoning court cases

Court case summaries on this website date back to 2003.  

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