Unilateral change of Zoning Board of Appeals ruling.

Asked June 6, 2019, 10:57 AM EDT

Can a building inspector for city independently allow a variance of ZBA decision on an addition to a home. Case in point ,an building inspector for Port Huron allowed an increase in the height of an addition to this home addition. A significant difference to original approved plans.

St. Clair County Michigan zoning board of appeals

2 Responses

Greetings,

Generally speaking, no, an administrative official like a zoning administrator cannot allow a departure from the ordinance standards. Only the zoning board of appeals is expressly permitted to grant a variance from the ordinance standards. You are describing a building inspector (enforcement officer?) that ignored a variance or allowance made by the ZBA. Similarly, a building inspector would not generally have that authority either.

That said, we do see some communities introducing narrowly tailored discretionary provisions addressing for example side yard setback, yard area and height issues up to a certain extent (usually 5-10% or 2-3 feet) and are often limited to specific districts. These provisions effectively codify previous decisions of the ZBA in districts where there is wide variation in lot or building sizes, where a general district change is not appropriate, and where a trip to the ZBA would be time consuming and expensive. The zoning administrator usually has to make findings of fact that certain circumstances listed in the ordinance exist and that the departure in question is the least necessary to solve a practical problem. If greater variation is needed, the applicant must go to the ZBA, and any of the departures granted by the zoning administrator can also be appealed to the ZBA. In other words, it is a very narrowly prescribed tool with protections built in to prevent abuse.

In either case, a decision made by the zoning administrator can be appealed to the ZBA. That is a possible course of action in this case. We cannot offer legal advice and you are encouraged to seek a legal opinion to gauge your standing and the merits of such a challenge.

Thanks for your response,your time and detailed response. Hope this goes toward mitigating an unusual issue currently in dispute here in Port Huron.
Ken Harris : Councilman