All zoning does not have to include everything in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act

Local governments are provided with several zoning tools and techniques. But they all do not have to be used in every zoning ordinance. Local governments can choose to use certain tools, or not.

Reviewing a zoning permit application site plan. MSU Extension Kurt H. Schindler.
Reviewing a zoning permit application site plan. MSU Extension Kurt H. Schindler.

Just because the zoning technique is referenced in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) (MCL 125.125.3101 et seq.) does not mean that tool or technique has to be a part of a local government’s zoning ordinance.

In several (not all) cases the statute is permissive, providing the option for a local government to include the zoning technique in the zoning ordinance. In other cases it is not, and the local zoning ordinance has to address what is required by statute.

For example conditional rezoning (MCL 125.3405) is permissive, providing an option for local government to make this tool available for applicants, or not. The statute also makes it clear conditional rezoning is the applicant’s option also, not allowing local government to initiate use of the zoning tool. Conditional rezoning is where an applicant wishes to petition to change zoning of a parcel(s). To reduce controversy or concerns the applicant might volunteer to condition the zoning amendment to restrict the use of the parcel(s) to only a specific certain land use. For example an ice cream store rather than all the possible land uses in a commercial district. If the zoning amendment is approved something like a deed restriction is placed on the parcel so that only the restricted uses of the parcel are possible.

The statute provides very broad concepts as to how such a rezoning is done. But it is extremely important to have additional detail (in local ordinance) concerning due process and other process and procedure before doing this. As a result it is often strongly advised a local unit of government do one of two things before considering a conditional rezoning:

1. Adopt as part of one’s zoning ordinance much more detailed language as to process and procedures for handling conditional rezoning (as can be found at the Michigan Townships Association member’s web page, where they prepared excellent sample language for this), or

2. Adopt as part of one’s zoning ordinance language to the effect that the local unit of government does not approve or consider conditional rezoning.

This is one example where a local government has the option not to use, or to use, the tool provided in statute. There are other zoning tools, or techniques which are also optional for local government to use in their zoning ordinance. So a local government can have or not have:

  • Requirement of site plans (and this article) for things other than special use permits and PUDs,
  • Open space zoning in a local government (limited transfer of development rights) with less than 1,800 population (must do so if 1,800 or more population),
  • Purchase of development rights program,
  • Performance guarantee requirement,
  • Conditional rezoning,
  • Various enforcement options (e.g., civil infraction), and for that matter
  • Adopting a zoning ordinance in the first place.

But with each of these, the adopted zoning ordinance has to be specific as to which are, or are not, intended for use.

There are other things which shall be required if there is a zoning ordinance, including (but not listing all of them):

Michigan State University Extension has training programs on many of these topics, as well as an intensive introductory training on planning and zoning. These programs are a couple of many MSU Extension offerings for local government and community, economic development officials. Contact your local government and public policy Educator to sponsor such training in your county.

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