Zoning Ordinance requirements
The general rule taught in the Citizen Planner training is that if a site plan or other request for approval is made that meets all the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance, it must be granted. Relief from the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance can only be granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals, a Court of Law, or amending the Ordinance for all by the governing body. My question is, does the Planning Commission and approving Council or Board have to follow the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance?
An example is that a downtown restaurant is successful and expands to an upper floor above the present restaurant use changing it from office/residential to the higher occupancy of assembly (bar/restaurant). No new parking is required by the city or provided by the business even though an Ordinance requirement. For the sake of discussion, assume that adequate parking for the greater occupancy was not available on site and that "public" parking is at or near capacity. The same restaurant is granted permission for outside dining, again increasing occupancy. They purchase an auto service station next door and plan to again expand onto to that site including new roof top dining with even greater additional occupancy and a Zoning Ordinance parking requirement of .6 x occupancy). Happy with the success of the restaurant and increased popularity of the city, the Planning Commission recommends and the Council approves the site plan without any parking requirements.
We could discuss whether greater and greater parking is a good thing (I don't), but that is a Master Plan/Zoning Ordinance change, not relief from the requirements for a single business.
It seems logical that this cannot be done but I could not find a specific reference in Michigan law, or the local ordinance, that it is improper or illegal. Your assistance would be appreciated.
Does the Planning Commission and approving Council or Board have to follow the requirements of the Zoning Ordinance?
If one wishes to seek an exception from the provision of the zoning ordinance, in the case of the example given: number of parking spaces required, that is done by applying for a variance from the parking requirements from the zoning board of appeals.
The approval (by the planning commission) of the site plan can be acted upon with the condition that the needed variance is granted by the zoning board of appeals, or the planning commission can postpone action on the site plan until after it is learned if the variance has been granted or not.
Another approach (not as likey for your example) is if all standards of a site plan are met, then approval must be given by the planning commission. If one of the standards is not met, then the planning commission may deny the site plan, or can impose conditions on its approval. The purpose of the condition(s) is to address the standard that has not been met, so that if the condition is done then the finding would be changed to say the standard has been meet. An example would be a proposal is found not to meet the standard of being compatible with neighboring land uses. The condition might be to require a buffer (vegetation, wall, etc.). The construction of the buffer is such that there would then be compatibility between the land uses.