zoning/ tax assessor classification

Asked December 18, 2018, 11:17 AM EST

What laws distinguish the difference concerning property issues

Charlevoix County Michigan

1 Response

Hi There,
Great question!

The designation of a tax assessing classification, such as Residential (401-460), Industrial (30-352), Commercial (201-251), or Agricultural (101-160) is established by the assessor based on the current land use. Zoning classification is based on either current land use or anticipated land use (based on a Master Plan).

A property could be taxed as residential but zoned agriculture. small (1 acre) or medium sized (10-20) acre parcel (for example) that is not actively farmed and just used for residential purposes may be zoned agriculture and taxed as residential. This is very common. There are many other combinations of how zoning classification and tax classification may be different.

In fact, it is very common for people to ask for a “rezoning to agriculture” after winter tax bills come out and before Board of Review in March. What the property owner is really seeking is a change to the tax classification to agriculture. Even if they were successful in a rezoning (which can be a difficult and lengthy process) it would likely have no bearing on their tax classification. Zoning and tax classification are not legally bound to each other or even related to each other. This can be admittedly confusing because some of the terminology is similar.

Zoning also allows for many more classifications of property than tax assessing. The names of various zoning classifications are more “creative” than the tax classifications because each community can decide their own names. Names might be something like recreational residential, highway commercial, transitional commercial, mixed use transitional commercial, downtown business district, waterfront, etc. Within zoning classifications there are often a wide variety of uses allowed-- a mixed use commercial zone may allow commercial, light industrial, and residential uses (multi-family, single family dwellings, etc). This is another reason why zoning and tax assessor classifications are not related to each other.

What laws distinguish the difference between zoning and tax assessor classification? Zoning is governed by the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act and the Michigan Planning Enabling Act-- these laws provide legal authority to Counties, Township, Cities, and Villages to plan and zone. The General Property Tax Act governs taxation and strictly defines each property classification for tax purposes.
A good resource on this is located on the MSUE website-- "Zoning district, tax assessor classifications not the same thing." There are many additional links in that article to the specific laws if you want additional detail on this question.

Best of luck to you.