I have been a Zoning Administrator in the past. I recently became a member of the Zoning Board of Appeals. I have been to several Dimensional Variance hearings and all I hear is, it is okay for the ZBA to just give the people what they want and there are no ramifications. I know this is not always true. My question is, are there cases out there where the ZBA approved a dimensional variance and a neighbor sued the ZBA and won? If so could you guide me to them for reference?
Clare County Michigan
I am not aware of, nor could I locate, any appellate court cases that fit the precise fact pattern you described in which the neighbor won. There are cases in which the neighbor sued, the ZBA decision was overturned, and the case was remanded back to the trial court because the ZBA's record of its decision was not adequate. (Reenders v. Parker, 217 Mich App 373 (1996) for example.) There are also similar cases that were disposed of by reference to procedural issues. However, keep in mind, that only appellate level decisions are readily accessible. There could be circuit court level decisions in which a neighbor contested granting of a dimensional variance and achieved a win. Beyond litigation, a very serious ramification of granting variances without strict compliance to the standards is the weakening of your zoning ordinance and its enforcement.