Is a township office exempt from parking space requirements for an event such as Fire Prevention Open House? We recently enforced a residence for having commercial events without adequate parking and want to make sure we aren't in violation of this same ordinance.
Muskegon County Michigan
Thanks for your question about parking space requirements. Without knowing the specifics of the ordinance and the situation at the residence, it is difficult for me to answer this question. It is a good idea to discuss enforcement concerns or questions with your municipal attorney.
From your question, it sounds like the zoning violation at the residence is the result of multiple “commercial events”. This is important because a single event such as a large party at a residence (anniversary, birthday, wedding) typically does not trigger a zoning violation due to parking. Indeed, the single family residence is never designed to accommodate parking for special events. The violation sounds like it is related to commercial activity in a residential area and the parking is just a byproduct of the land use violation. Consider that the primary enforcement issue is related to commercial events at a residential property— not excess parking in and of itself.
The facts around the township’s event are different than the facts around the residential property holding commercial events. The township may be zoned differently, have more land and space available for parking, have a larger parking lot to handle most of the parking most of the time, the township is also most likely a designated place for public uses/events/meetings. The residence is likely in a residential zone or surrounded by other residences, parking may be inadequate for the events (parking on the road can introduce safety/welfare issues), the events are reoccurring, and perhaps there is unwanted noise for nearby residences.
I think that the heart of your question is more about making sure that the township is not enforcing rules on others that it does not enforce on itself. While there is likely no written ordinance on this—it is essentially “the golden rule”. We all worry about breaking the golden rule. What would this mean for the credibility of the township going forward? It is likely here that yes, there were excess cars at each event; but from a zoning and land-use perspective the situations causing the excess parking were different.
In summary, overflow parking at one township event and overflow parking at a residence hosting multiple commercial events is not the same violation. Considering the facts and land uses around each case will help to show the public how the situations are different if the appearance of breaking the golden rule is a concern. Finally, overflow parking is mostly likely not the primary violation—the primary zoning violation is a residence hosting commercial events.
Again, it is a good idea to discuss enforcement concerns or questions with your municipal attorney as they are more familiar with the township’s ordinances.
Good luck to you.