Township Owned Property

Asked May 3, 2016, 8:16 PM EDT

If a township entity owns a piece of property in the township that is governed by local zoning ordinances and wishes to develop the site, are there conditions or situations under which the township government would be exempt from adhering to local zoning ordinances?

Grand Traverse County Michigan zoning zoning administration government not subject to its own zoning

3 Responses

In Michigan a municipality that adopts a zoning ordinance need not follow its own ordinance (Morrison et al. v. City of East Lansing, 255 Mich. App. 505 (2003)). The court case establishing this preemption is specifically interpreting the City and Village Zoning Act, but the language the court used suggests this concept might also apply to a township or county. This preemption is only for a government’s own zoning ordinance. A city, township, and village government must comply with another government’s zoning ordinance (Michigan Attorney General Opinion No. 6982 (1998)).

However the government project is still subject to the review requirements by the planning commission pursuant to sections 61 and 63 of the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3861 and 125.3863).

See also the Land Use Series "Restrictions on Zoning Authority": http://lu.msue.msu.edu/pamphlet/Blaw/AcrobatZoningCanNot.PDF , found at web page http://lu.msue.msu.edu/pamphlets.htm#court.

Thank you for your prompt reply. I was a little surprised by the answer I received, but nonetheless it's the answer. I was hoping that you could shed some light as to why a municipality in Michigan does not have to abide by an adopted ordinance when ever citizen in the municipality or someone wishing to do business in a municipality does?

The short answer as to why, is because a Michigan Appeals Court said so: Morrison et al. v. City of East Lansing, 255 Mich. App. 505 44
(2003). A summary of that court case can be found at http://lu.msue.msu.edu/pamphlet/Blaw/LUCourtCaseAnnualSum2003.pdf. Reading the entire court opinion would shed light on the court's reasoning.

However, it is not a blank check. There is still provisions in the Michigan Planning Enabling Act that requires a planning commission to review a capital improvement project before it is done: sections 61 and 63 of the Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MCL 125.3861 and 125.3863).