No state oversight of planning, zoning; limited central database of zoning ordinances
While there is no state oversight of planning and zoning, there is a statewide database of zoning ordinances in Michigan.
There is no state oversight of planning and zoning in Michigan other than through a lawsuit in Michigan’s courts. However, researchers at the University of Michigan Graham Sustainability Institute prepared a database of local zoning ordinances valid as of April 1, 2019. This resource is helpful for exploring which local governments have zoning and the types of regulations that exist around the state. There remains no central repository of local government adopted plans or police power ordinances.
One major reason for limited central information concerning local planning and zoning is that planning and zoning in Michigan are optional. There are some local governments that only have a master plan (no zoning), some local governments have no master plan or zoning ordinance, and others have adopted both. According to the Graham Sustainability Institute, the Michigan Zoning Database includes:
- Which communities have considered renewable energy in their zoning ordinances
- In which communities utility-scale wind and solar projects are located
- Which level of government has zoning authority and a link to each zoning ordinance
- Demographic and geographic information about each community
Michigan requires zoning to be based on a plan (MCL 125.3203). One might make the assumption that if there is adopted zoning, then there is also an adopted master plan. However, this is not necessarily the case, and there may be counties and municipalities that have adopted master plans even though they do not have zoning. Marquette County and Missaukee County are two such examples.
The Michigan Zoning Database is a helpful resource for exploring various standards and regulatory approaches related to small-scale and utility-scale wind and solar energy development. However, it remains difficult to query or gather general local government zoning approaches to other topics of interest, such as:
- Which communities have natural shoreline standards for surface water setbacks?
- Which communities are overhauling their off-street parking requirements?
- How many communities allow small-scale livestock in primarily residential areas?
Michigan State University Extension land use educators try to stay knowledgeable of effective county and municipal planning and zoning approaches and share them across Michigan. Another source for planning and zoning content includes Michigan’s state planning and development regions; many maintain information on the local governments within their multi-county regions. Some of the regions also perform master plan and zoning ordinance updates for member local governments. It might also be possible to learn about content and trends associated with local government plans and zoning ordinances from one or more of Michigan’s private consulting planners. They work with many municipalities and counties in Michigan. A planning consulting firm will have the collective knowledge of plans and zoning from their clients. Depending on the firm, they may be focused within a region of the state, a distribution throughout a larger geography in Michigan, or both.
Finally, a county planning department may have a complete library of municipal and county plans and zoning ordinances within the respective county. The process of adopting a master plan requires the county planning commission receive and review draft plans, and requires the county planning commission receive the final adopted master plan. When there is a staffed county planning department, those plans are often retained for reference. The Michigan Planning Enabling Act requires municipalities to provide a current copy of adopted zoning (and to keep that copy up-to-date) to the county planning department, if the county planning commission requests MCL 125.3869. For those counties that have a planning department and made such a request, there would be a single source of zoning ordinances also.