Justia Michigan Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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David and Helen Goyings designed and built a retirement home on a lakefront lot. Their neighbors insisted the Goyingses violated the subdivision’s restrictive covenants that barred “pre-fabricated or modular home[s]” and had to tear it down. After a three-day bench trial, the trial court found no cause of action and dismissed the case. But the Court of Appeals concluded that the trial court erred when it held that the covenants “did not contemplate a home of the type built by Defendants.” The Court of Appeals reasoned the Goyingses’ home unambiguously fit the commonly understood definition of “modular” but never construed the disputed term used in the covenants, “modular home.” The panel reversed and held that the trial court should have granted judgment in the neighbors’ favor and ordered the Goyingses to tear down their new home. After review, the Michigan Supreme Court disagreed: "The materials, workmanship, quality, and outward appearance of the defendants’ home are indistinguishable from a site-built home. And modular components don’t necessarily make a modular home. The covenants give us text and context to determine what a modular home is. A fair reading of those covenants prohibits a home that is more modular than not. And the Goyingses’ home is mostly not modular." The Supreme Court reversed the Court of Appeals and affirmed the trial court’s dismissal of the case. View "Thiel v. Goyings" on Justia Law

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The question presented in this case was whether the building inspection fees assessed by defendant, the city of Troy (the City), were “intended to bear a reasonable relation to the cost” of acts and services provided by the City’s Building Inspection Department (Building Department) under the Construction Code Act (CCA). The Michigan Supreme Court held the City’s use of the revenue generated by those fees to pay the Building Department’s budgetary shortfalls in previous years violated MCL 125.1522(1). “While fees imposed to satisfy the alleged historical deficit may arguably be for ‘the operation of the enforcing agency or the construction board of appeals,’ this does not mean that such fees ‘bear a reasonable relation’ to the costs of acts and services provided by the Building Department. Here, the Court was satisfied plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to conclude that the City established fees that were not intended to “bear a reasonable relation” to the costs of acts and services necessary to justify the City’s retention of 25% of all the fees collected. Furthermore, the Supreme Court determined there was no express or implied monetary remedy for a violation of MCL 125.1522(1). Nonetheless, plaintiffs could seek declaratory and injunctive relief to redress present and future violations of MCL 125.1522(1). Because the City has presented evidence to justify the retention of a portion of these fees, the Supreme Court remanded to the trial court for further proceedings. Lastly, the Supreme Court concluded there was no record evidence establishing that plaintiffs were “taxpayer[s]” with standing to file suit pursuant to the Headlee Amendment. On remand, the trial court was mandated to allow plaintiffs’ members an opportunity to establish representational standing on plaintiffs’ behalf. View "Michigan Association of Home Builders v. City of Troy" on Justia Law

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In Docket No. 151800, Clam Lake Township and Haring Charter Township (the Townships) appealed the determination of the State Boundary Commission (the Commission) that an agreement entered into under the Intergovernmental Conditional Transfer of Property by Contract Act (Act 425 agreement) between the Townships was invalid. In Docket No. 153008, as the Commission proceedings in Docket No. 151800 were ongoing, TeriDee, LLC brought an action against the Townships, seeking a declaratory judgment that the Act 425 agreement was void as against public policy because it contracted away Haring’s zoning authority by obligating Haring’s zoning board to rezone pursuant to the agreement. The Act 425 agreement at issue here sought to transfer to Haring Charter Township an undeveloped parcel of roughly 241 acres of land in Clam Lake Township that was zoned for forest-recreational use. The agreement provided a description of the Townships’ desired economic development project, including numerous minimum requirements for rezoning the property. Approximately 141 acres of the land were owned by TeriDee LLC, the John F. Koetje Trust, and the Delia Koetje Trust (collectively, TeriDee), who wished to develop the land for commercial use. To achieve this goal, TeriDee petitioned the Commission to have the land annexed by the city of Cadillac. The Commission found TeriDee’s petition legally sufficient and concluded that the Townships’ Act 425 agreement was invalid because it was created solely as a means to bar the annexation and not as a means of promoting economic development. The Townships appealed the decision in the circuit court, and the court upheld the Commission’s determination, concluding that the Commission had the power to determine the validity of an Act 425 agreement. The Townships sought leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which the Court of Appeals denied in an unpublished order. The Michigan Supreme Court held: (1) the State Boundary Commission did not have the authority to determine the validity of the Act 425 agreement and could only find whether an agreement was "in effect"; and (2) an Act 425 agreement can include requirements that a party enact particular zoning ordinances, and the Court of Appeals erred by concluding to the contrary. TeriDee's annexation petition was preempted. Both cases were remanded to the circuit court for further proceedings. View "Clam Lake Township v. Dept. of Licensing & Reg. Affairs" on Justia Law

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Plaintiffs, a group of associations representing builders, contractors, and plumbers, filed suit against the city of Troy, claiming that the City's building department fees violated section 22 of the Single State Construction Code Act (CCA), MCL 125.1522, as well as a provision of the Headlee Amendment, Const 1963, art 9, section 31. The circuit court granted summary judgment to the City, holding that the court lacked jurisdiction over the matter because plaintiffs had failed to exhaust the administrative procedure outlined in section 9b of the CCA, MCL 125.1509b. After review, the Supreme Court reversed and remanded: the plain language of MCL 125.1509b provided that the director may conduct performance evaluations of defendant’s “enforcing agency” and did not provide any administrative procedure relative to the entity responsible for establishing fees pursuant to MCL 125.1522(1). Because the administrative proceedings in section 9b did not purport to provide the director with the authority to evaluate defendant’s legislative body, the circuit court erred by granting summary disposition to the City on the basis of plaintiffs’ failure to exhaust their administrative remedies. View "Michigan Ass'n of Home Builders v. City of Troy" on Justia Law

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John Ter Beek filed an action against the City of Wyoming, seeking to have a city zoning ordinance declared void and an injunction entered prohibiting its enforcement. Ter Beek was a qualifying patient and held a registry identification card under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA). He wanted to grow and use marijuana for medical purposes in his home and argued that section 4(a) of the MMMA, MCL 333.26424(a), preempted the ordinance. Both parties moved for summary judgment. Ter Beek argued that because the federal controlled substances act (CSA) prohibited the use, manufacture, or cultivation of marijuana, the ordinance likewise prohibited the use, manufacture, or cultivation of marijuana for medical use and therefore conflicted with and was preempted by the MMMA. The city argued instead that the CSA preempted the MMMA. The court granted the City's motion, agreeing that the CSA preempted the MMMA. Ter Beek appealed. The Court of Appeals reversed, concluding that the ordinance conflicted with sec. 4(a) of the MMMA and that the CSA did not preempt 4(a) because it was possible to comply with both statutes simultaneously and the state-law immunity for certain medical marijuana patients under 4(a) did not stand as an obstacle to the federal regulation of marijuana use. The City appealed. The Supreme Court concluded section 4(a) of the MMMA was not preempted by the federal controlled substances act, but 4(a) preempted the ordinance because the ordinance directly conflicted with the MMMA. View "Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming" on Justia Law

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Elba Township brought an action against the Gratiot County Drain Commissioner seeking to enjoin the commissioner from consolidating the drainage districts associated with the No. 181-0 drain and its tributary drains. Elba Township argued that the consolidation proceedings had violated the Drain Code because the No. 181-0 drain petition for consolidation lacked the statutorily required number of freeholder signatures and the notice of the hearing by the board of determination had been deficient. Plaintiffs David Osborn, Mark Crumbaugh, Cloyd Cordray, and Rita Cordray intervened, similarly seeking declaratory and injunctive relief and claiming that the petition was defective and that the notice of the meeting of the board of determination was defective, resulting in a violation of their due process rights. With regard to the due process claim, plaintiffs’ primary complaint was that some of the property that would be affected by the drainage project lay outside the townships listed in the notice, although the notice stated that it was being sent to persons liable for an assessment. The drain commissioner moved for summary judgment, arguing that the appropriate number of signatures had been gathered and that the notice given appropriately informed those affected by the proposed consolidation of the date, time, and place of the board-of-determination hearing. Elba Township and plaintiffs filed cross-motions for summary judgment. The court granted the drain commissioner’s motion, finding that only 5 freeholder signatures were required on the petition rather than the 50 signatures the township claimed. Elba Township and the Osborn plaintiffs appealed. The Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s exercise of equitable jurisdiction, but reversed on the merits. Upon review, the Supreme Court concluded that the lower courts improperly exercised equitable jurisdiction over the signature-requirement question but properly exercised such jurisdiction over the question of notice. "The former question is purely statutory and, as such, there were no grounds on which the lower courts could properly exercise equitable jurisdiction. Though the exercise of equitable jurisdiction over the latter question was proper, we conclude that constitutional due process did not entitle plaintiffs to receive notice of the 'board of determination' hearing. The trial court’s order granting summary judgment for defendant was reinstated. View "Elba Township v. Gratiot County Drain Commissioner" on Justia Law