Amending a zoning ordinance requires adopting an ordinance

Communities with zoning must regularly update their ordinance to reduce legal risk. The process for doing so is not difficult, but it is detailed and requires adopting an amending ordinance.

Zoning ordinances need to be regularly updated. New state and federal laws add or subtract local government authority to protect public health, safety, and welfare. Court rulings clarify the limits of governmental powers and due process. Attorney General opinions provide interpretation of existing law.

As such changes and clarifications occur, it is a recommended best practice for a government with zoning authority to review and update its zoning ordinance at least every year or two. This reduces legal risk by staying current with the law.

The process for amending an existing zoning ordinance is covered in the Michigan State University Extension Land Use Series pamphlet For Adoption of a Zoning Ordinance Amendment (including some PUDs) in Michigan. While the process is outlined in great detail, what might not be widely understood is the means by which a zoning ordinance is amended. A zoning ordinance is amended by adopting an amending ordinance.

More specifically, a zoning amendment is passed by creating and adopting an ordinance to amend the original ordinance (similar to the legislature adopting a statute to amend an existing statute). The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (PA 110 of 2006, as amended, being MCL 125.3101 et seq.) states in Section 202(1) "The legislative body of a local unit of government may provide by ordinance for the manner in which the regulations and boundaries of districts or zones shall be determined and enforced or amended or supplemented. Amendments or supplements to the zoning ordinance shall be adopted in the same manner as provided under this act for the adoption of the original ordinance" (emphasis added). In the italicized text, one can see the circular reference back to the means by which the original zoning regulations were adopted to begin with - by ordinance.

The amending ordinance should detail the additions and/or deletions to the zoning ordinance with the relevant section numbers from the zoning ordinance. An amending ordinance should look something like the following:



1. The Anytown Zoning Ordinance of [date], as amended (hereinafter the “Ordinance”), shall be amended to [insert a brief description of the first amendment; that which is being removed, added, and/or changed], as follows, to wit:

               [insert specific sections here]

2. The Ordinance shall be amended to [insert a brief description of the next amendment; that which is being removed, added, and/or changed], as follows, to wit:

              [insert specific sections here]

3.  [and so on]

X. CONFLICTING ORDINANCES:  All other ordinances and parts of ordinances, or amendments thereto, of Anytown in conflict with the provisions of this ordinance are hereby repealed.

XI.  RECODIFICATION:  That the Ordinance is hereby amended to recodify the numbering of articles and sections to conform to a standard or model codification scheme established by the Ordinance where articles are numbered within groups of ten to associate together similar articles on similar topics, and sections are numbered sequentially with the first two digits being the article number and the next two digits being the sequential section number. 

XII. EFFECTIVE DATE:  This ordinance amendment shall take effect on [date], upon publication in the [local newspaper].

There are many specific examples on the internet of how individual municipalities structure their amending ordinances. Some examples include Grand Rapids Charter Township, Jamestown Charter Township, and the City of Alma. For further assistance with the process and mechanics of updating a zoning ordinance or master plan, contact a Michigan State University Extension Land Use Educator.  

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