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Michigan Legislature Amends the Zoning Enabling Act

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Cole M. Young & Chris W. Braverman
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
March 2008

Last month, the State Legislature enacted Public Act 12 of 2008 (the "Act"), which amended the Zoning Enabling Act ("ZEA"). The ZEA went into effect on July 1, 2006, and consolidated all of the different zoning acts applicable to cities, villages, townships, and counties. Many of the Act’s amendments to the ZEA are considered "technical," in that they do not change any of the duties, rights, or other substantive provisions of the ZEA. The Legislature did, however, make some significant changes that townships and their zoning bodies should know. These amendments took effect February 29, 2008, and are explained below.

Notice Provisions

  • If a township "conducts a public hearing required" by the ZEA, it must publish notice of the hearing in a newspaper of general circulation "not less than 15 days before the date of the hearing."
  • Notice of a hearing must be given to the following persons: (1) owners of property "that is the subject of the request;" (2) all persons to whom real property is assessed within 300 feet of the property that is the subject of the request; and (3) occupants of all structures within 300 feet of the subject property.
  • The notice does not need to be given to more than 1 occupant of a structure, but if the structure contains more than 1 dwelling unit or distinct spatial areas owned or leased by different persons, 1 occupant of each unit or spatial area must be given notice. If a single structure contains more than 4 units, notice may be given to the manager or owner of the structure, who shall be requested to post the notice at the primary entrance.
  • Notice is considered to have been given when it is either personally delivered or when it is deposited with the US Post Office or other delivery service during normal business hours not less than 15 days before the request is being considered.
  • A hearing granted by the Township Board to an interested property owner regarding a zoning ordinance or zoning amendment is not subject to all of the notice requirements in the ZEA, but notice must be given to the interested property owner as provided by the ZEA.

Zoning Commissions

  • The Act clarifies the requirement to create a "zoning commission" and the role of planning commissions. It states that a township that exercises zoning authority is required to create a "zoning commission" unless any of the following apply:
    • A "township zoning board" that was created pursuant to the former Township Zoning Act, Public Act 184 of 1943, was in existence as of June 30, 2006;
    • A planning commission that was created pursuant to the applicable planning enabling act was in existence as of June 30, 2006; or
    • The township created a planning commission on or after July 1, 2006, and then transferred the powers of a zoning commission to the planning commission.
  • As of July 1, 2011, a zoning commission’s powers or duties must be transferred to a planning commission, and those powers or duties "shall only be exercised or performed by a planning commission."

Zoning Boards of Appeals

  • The township zoning ordinance must create a zoning board of appeals ("ZBA"), and members of a ZBA must be appointed by a majority vote of the township board.
  • One of the regular ZBA members must also be a member of the planning commission (or "zoning commission" as the case may be).
  • If a ZBA member is also a member of the planning commission or the township board, that member cannot participate in a public hearing or vote regarding the same matter that the member voted on as a member of the planning commission or board. The member could, however, vote on and consider unrelated matters involving the same property.

Appeals to the ZBA

  • If the ZBA receives a written request to appeal an administrative decision or for interpretation of the zoning ordinance, the ZBA must conduct a public hearing and provide the notice under Section 103 of the ZEA.
  • If the request does not involve a specific parcel of property, notice only needs to be published as provided in Section 103(1) of the ZEA and given to the person making the request as provided in Section 103(3) of the ZEA.

Appeals from ZBA Decisions

  • Any appeal to circuit court from a ZBA decision must be filed within 30 days after the ZBA issues its decision in writing, or within 21 days after the ZBA approves the minutes of its decision.
  • The decision issued in writing must be signed by the Chairperson of the ZBA or, if there is no chairperson, signed by the members of the ZBA.

"Readoption" of Zoning Ordinance

  • If a township’s zoning ordinance was adopted under one of the repealed zoning enabling acts, the township does not need to "readopt" it. Instead, the zoning ordinance simply becomes subject to the ZEA, including the ZEA amendment procedures.