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Michigan Court of Appeals Affirms Decision that Livestock Animals Kept in Residential Zone Were a Nuisance

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Liza C. Moore
Foster Swift Agricultural Law News
July 17, 2015

On May 19, 2015, the Michigan Court of Appeals decided Township of Williamston v Hudson, affirming the trial court’s order holding that the defendant’s operation was a nuisance per se. The defendant moved into a small parcel of property adjacent to Williamston High School and zoned R-1, one family residential. The zoning did not allow for agricultural uses. The defendant kept rabbits, pigs, chickens, goats, quail and ducks on the land. After receiving complaints, the township informed the defendant that keeping these animals on the land violated the local zoning ordinance. Eventually the township filed suit against the defendant, alleging a nuisance per se based on violation of the local ordinances. The defendant asserted that the Right to Farm Act preempted the local zoning ordinances. While the suit was pending, the township filed a complaint with the Michigan Department of Agriculture, which resulted in an investigation and requests for the defendant to develop a Manure Management System Plan. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and then granted the township’s motion. The trial court held that the defendant’s failure to satisfy the applicable generally accepted agricultural and management practices (“GAAMPs”) for site selection, animal care, and manure management precluded the application of the Right to Farm Act. The Court of Appeals affirmed, holding that the defendant had not complied with the manure GAAMP. The Court of Appeals did not rely on the recent amendments to the site selection GAAMPs for its decision.