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Land Use Questions and Answers, Zoning Adoption and Amendment
Have a question on land use, planning, and zoning? Please email your question to the approprate land use educator for your part of the state, as shown here.  Please tell them what county you are from.

A large part of Extension's service is to respond to email questions on land use, planning, and zoning.  This page contains questions which are among the more common ones received.  The questions and answers here are compiled from those I have received/responded to, and those I have participated in discussion with on the Michigan Society of Planning discussion board.  The materials here, are written for the specifics of planning and land use law in Michigan.  Please send your comments and suggestions to me, to make these pages a better service for you.  Send to schindl9@anr.msu.edu .

Click to Jump to Questions on these topics:
Zoning, Adoption and Amendment   Zoning, Special Use & PUD   Zoning, Open Space      
Zoning, Agriculture   Zoning, Other  
  • Terms of Office   
  • Residency, property ownership  
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Ethics with a possible conflict of interest
  • Appointing yourself to Planning Commission
  • Incompatible Office   
  • Voting Twice on the Same Issue 
  • No Ex parte contact
  • Why Coordinated Planning
  • Adopting Plan Under New Acts   
  • Deadline to Complete "old" plan
  • Planning Library   
  • What is in a Plan   
  • What is in a Plan Part II
  • What does a plan cost
  • Land Use and Land Cover  
  • Capital Improvement Planning   
  • Housing   
  • Zoning Amendments and Plan
  • Frequently asked questions on the Michigan Planning Enabling Act of 2008   
  • Size of Zoning Ordinance
  • Land Patents & Zoning Jurisdiction
  • Public Notices for zoning Amendments
  • Undue Influence by elected officials
  • Elected Body Acts, even if Planning Commission Recommends Denial   
  • Conditions on Zoning Amendment   
  • Amending the Zoning Map
  • Have an area with out a zoning district
  • One-to-One relationship between zoning text and zoning map.    
  • Amending Zoning, downzone   
  • Adopt Part of a Zoning Ord.
  • Petition Zoning to a vote  
  • Permit Approval based on What Zoning Says on Date Application is Received.
  • Amendment & Permit at same time
  • Conditional Rezoning 
  • Deadlines for zoning decisions.
  • Conditional Uses (compared to Special Uses & Permitted Uses)
  • Special Use Permit
  • Special Use Permit and Variance
  • Zoning Permit Issued by Mistake
  • Transfer of Development Rights (TDR)
  • Open Space Sample Zoning   
  • Open Space Administration   
  • Open Space;  Which census is used.  
  • Open Space; Adopt Open Space provisions even if not meeting requirements  
  • Open Space in Agriculture Districts   
  • Agriculture subject to zoning? READ THIS QUESTION FIRST, it trumps all those below.
  • Agriculture Buildings Subject to Zoning?
  • Exempt from Construction Code Permits
  • Changing an Existing  
  • Right to Farm Act   
  • Limiting Number of Animal Units
  • Right to Farm Act, Exotic Animals  
  • Riding Stables  
  • Definition of Agriculture  
  • Bed and Breakfast
  • Home Occupatin: employees
  • Cottage Industry  
  • Mobile Homes  
  • Signs
  • Oil & Gas Processing Plant   
  • Mining and mine reclamation
  • Setbacks
  • Waterfront Zoning
  • Keyhole development
  • Boat Docks, Boat Houses & Enclosed Docks   
  • Wetland Buffers   
  • Airport Zoning   
  • Model Airplanes (Do not try to write zoning for every possible use) 
  • Windmills, Radio Towers (Do not try to write zoning for every possible use) 
  • Zoning Administrator   Zoning Appeals   Nonconforming Issues Land Divisions Subdivisions and Site Condominiums   Other  
  • What Zoning Applies for a Particular Zoning Permit Application.
  • Taking Minutes   
  • Back-up Zoning Administrator  
  • Coordination with Construction Code
  • Enforcement; Use of Site Plans, Follow up Inspections
  • If you disagree with a decision  
  • Conflict of Interest
  • Ethics with a possible conflict of interest
  • Cross membership on Appeals Board
  • Voting Twice on the Same Issue  
  • No Ex parte contact
  • Dimensional Variances   
  • Use Variances and County/Township   
  • Effective Date of an Appeals Board Decision   
  • Variance Expiration/Temporary Variances   
  • Variances do not go away  
  • How to Appeal and Appeal .
  • Appeals are public record .
  • How it Influence an Appeal Decision  
  • What is nonconforming?
  • Must allow expansion of nonconforming uses   
  • Lots in a subdivision   
  • Replacing building destroyed by an act of God   
  •   Divisions can never be divided again   
  • Property Line Adjustment
  • Dividing a lot in a subdivision 
  • Property Line boundary alternation/correction   
  • Requiring Land Surveys   
  • Zoning, Construction Code, and Land Division Act
  •  Lot in a subdivision is too small
  • Splitting a Lot   
  • Site Condos
  • Site Condo v. Subdivision
  • Open Meeting Act 
  • Addressing, Change Road Name
  • Nuisance Ordinance, County Authority
  • County Enforcement of Township Ordinances
  • County Junk Ordinance Junk Ordinance
  • Rental Housing, county authority   

  • Dry Wells

    Ask a land use question in the form below and a member of the MSU Extension Land Use Team will send you a reply.  Be sure to let us know what community and county you come from - it helps us route your question to the team member best able to answer.



    Zoning, Adoption and Amendment

    Topic Question Answer
    Size of Zoning Ordinance My home township is currently working on a revised zoning ordinance that may end up being more than twice the size of our current document.  The merits of an ever-expanding ordinance are debatable, but the immediate concern is being sure applicants understand the regulations.  Are you aware of any townships that have developed a simplified guide to help residents understand the development standards and processes in their communities? 
    (August 7, 2001)
         The size of a zoning ordinance is irrelevant.  It needs to be whatever size is necessary to do the job.  (My observation is, the shorter it is, the more loopholes exist and the more problems one will have in the long run.)  
         There are many communities that have developed guides for zoning. 
         The other option is the development of checklists.  The checklist would be used primarily by the zoning administrator when reviewing a permit application/site plan/etc. so he does not miss anything, and is sure to review each application the same way.  Those checklists can be used to give to the public so they are clear on exactly what is looked at and reviewed.  Samples of this can be found in the Sample Zoning Administrator Manual (part of our Land Use Series pamphlets ).  
    -----Kurt H. Schindler  

    Land Patents & Zoning Jurisdiction

    We have some that claim because they live on U.S. Land Patented property they are not subject to local regulations, zoning, or taxes. What case law is there on this?
    (May 15, 2006)

         The short answer is the arguments of this genre are utter and complete nonsense. Rather than go to the expense of shooting the argument down, let the arguee try to find a lawyer that will take on the case --that way the arguee gets to pay his/her own legal fees to learn it is utter and compete nonsense.
         Otherwise, see Michigan Attorney General Opinion #6810.
         For the zoning argument: In Brewer v Kidd, 23 Mich 439 (1871), the Michigan Supreme Court citing US Const, art IV, Sec. 3, cl 2, said that once transferred by patent, jurisdiction became vested in the state:
         "Under these provisions, the power of sale and disposition of the public lands, and of prescribing the rules, regulations, officers, agencies and the whole course of proceedings, for effecting such sales is vested exclusively in the federal government, until the sale is consummated by the issuing of a patent to the purchaser, which alone (in ordinary cases like the present, at least) divests the title of the United States and vests it in the purchaser, when, for the first time, it becomes in all respects subject to the local laws of the state, like the great mass of other property within its limits." [Emphasis added. 23 Mich 443-444.]
         For the taxation argument see Section 1 of 1893 PA 206, the General Property Tax Act, MCL 211.1 et seq; MSA 7.1 et seq., provides:
         "That all property, real and personal, within the jurisdiction of this state, not expressly exempted, shall be subject to taxation."
         The only exemption even arguably applicable is that set forth in section 7 of the General Property Tax Act, which provides:
         "Public property belonging to the United States is exempt from taxation under this act. This exemption shall not apply if taxation of the property is specifically authorized by federal legislative action or federal administrative rule, regulation, or lease."
         The foregoing provision recognizes the primacy of the United States Government, under US Const, art IV, Sec. 3, cl 2, over property to which it has title. However, nothing in that provision governs the regulation or taxation of property after it no longer belongs to the United States - i.e., after its conveyance to others.

    Public Notices for zoning Amendments Now we have a requirement to list address of affected property for rezonings. I'm not thrilled with this as we don't assign addresses to vacant properties in the county-only when permits are pulled. We will now have to do a temporary address for purpose of rezoning - with a final assigned at the time a permit is pulled.
    (May 15, 2006)
         The act does not require you to assign addresses, or to create temporary ones. (In fact I would not create temporary addresses nor would I address vacant parcels of land. No address should be created until permit is issued is a wise and good policy to continue to use.)
         The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, as amended, reads: "The notice shall include a listing of all existing street addresses within the proposed rezoned property...." [emphais added]. It goes on to say "Street addreses do not need to be created and listed if no such addresses currently exist within the property" (M.C.L. 125.3103(3)(b)). The act requires one to list "existing addresses", so that is all I would do. (If a parcel does not have an address, then there is not an address to list.) (Or, alternatively, you could list "vacant parcel(s) between 276 and 290 Elm Street.")
    ----Kurt H. Schindler
    Zoning Jurisdiction 
    Are schools subject to zoning? Michigan Court of Appeals (Charter Township of Northville v. Northville Public Schools, ( No. 219124.) August 17, 2001; 2001 WL 936349  --- N.W.2d --- (Cite as: 2001 WL 936349 (Mich.App.)) Only the Westlaw citation is currently available.) ruled: 
    This case requires us to decide whether a provision of the Revised School Code, M.C.L. <section> 380.1263(3), exempts school construction projects from local land use regulations, including zoning controls and site plan reviews. Further, we must  decide whether the statute unconstitutionally delegates legislative authority to the superintendent of public instruction. We conclude that the statute is constitutional and that its plain language exempts school construction projects from local land use regulations, including zoning and site plan reviews.  
    ----Gary Taylor  
         But what if a school district wanted to build a gas station on the corner of their property?  From a strict constructionist point of view, which seems to be the popular view these days, one could argue that if the Legislature meant to exempt everything that happens on school owned property from local zoning, they could have said so, but all they said was "buildings". 
    ---Richard Wilson 

    Undue Influence by Elected Officials. Elected members of the Township Board appearing at Township Planning Commission meetings insisting they have the right to participate in the discussion/determination of the Planning Commission on matters brought before them. Not, during scheduled public comment, but actual input during the decision of the Planning Commission. This I feel is a breach of ethics. In addition, these same Township Board members insisted ‘I want’, when the Planning Commission members made their decision and state they are ‘just going to send it back to you to change when it (the decision on an amendment to the Ordinance the Planning Commission has made) comes back from County review.’ Have they not created a bias, a conflict of interest for themselves? They have stated in a public forum their opposition to this amendment. When the amendment does come before the Township Board for passage how could they possibly render an unbiased decision? (January 17, 2011)

         The answer to this type of situation is very different, depending on the type of zoning case it is.
         If it is an administrative decision (site plan review, special use permit, PUD handled administratively, etc.) then there is a school of thought that would say it is unethical for elected officials to attend a public hearing or otherwise try to influence the outcome. This is primarily because administrative decisions must be based on standards in the zoning ordinance. Depending on many other variables, an attorney for the applicant may use the presence of the elected officials to show that the decision was based on their influence, and not on the standards –thus attempting to defeat the decision, or use the event in other ways to further their case.
         In the situation you describe it appears that the case before the planning commission is a legislative decision (zoning text or map amendment, PUD handled as an amendment). In this situation the final decision is made by the legislative body, and the planning commission is only doing the homework, hearing, and offering a recommendation.
         The procedure to process a zoning amendment in Michigan is liner and clear: Land Use Series: “Check List #4 For Adoption of a Zoning Ordinance Amendment (including some PUDs) in Michigan” In situations where the amendment is initiated by the elected body, or where the majority of the elected body already have an idea of the direction desired it is useful to know that up front. Having a spokesperson from the elected body at the public hearing to share that information is appropriate. (However care should be taken to make sure the person speaking is speaking on behalf of the entire elected body –not just delivering their own opinion. That means discussion on the issue has already taken place at the elected body’s public meeting, and they adopted a motion to make a certain position known to the planning commission.) If the planning commission feels strongly about the issue it may express that by recommending an amendment different than that the elected body wants, and then expect the give-and-take play out (see steps 8-11 in Land Use Series: “Check List #4 For Adoption of a Zoning Ordinance Amendment (including some PUDs) in Michigan”).
         There is not any obligation for the planning commission to allow comment other than during the public participation or hearing portion of the meeting. It is the chair’s job to oversee that. (An exception would be if the Planning Commission’s bylaws provide for such comment during other parts of the meeting.)
         Finally, with legislative decisions, there may be an expectation of objectivity on the part of the planning commission –but there is not that expectation of the elected body. They have the job of adopting policy (in this case a zoning amendment) and have the right to determine what that policy is, through all the means typical of any legislative elected assembly (lobbying, contact with constituents, carrying forward the platform of their political party, or campaign promises, and so on.)
         For more information on the appropriate role between the zoning administrator, planning commission, elected body, and zoning board of appeals and the separation of zoning powers in Michigan between legislative, administrative, and quasi-judicial see: Land Use Series: “Elected Officials: Dealing with Constituent Complaints on Planning and Zoning Issues.”
    -----Kurt H. Schindler, AICP

    Elected Body Acts, even if Planning Commission Recommends Denial If the Township Planning Commission recommends denying a rezoning request and the Township Board is prepared to approve the request anyway based on the merits of the request, master plan, etc., does the request have to be sent back to the Planning Commission?  If so, what must transpire in terms of public hearings at both levels? (see MCL 1253.401).
    (updated May 12, 2006)
         The township board has final action on the request - the action of the township planning commission (and likewise any planning commission) concerning amendments are advisory.  Follow normal posting and public notice procedures under the Act.
         (For information purposes a couple township planning commissions recommended denial of a request and then informed the county planning commission that they would not be sending the request as it was a dead issue because they denied it. That is not correct. The applicant had paid a fee and had the right to due process which was a right to go through the WHOLE process all the way to the Township Board's final action.  Therefore, the county planning commission was going to review the request and make a recommendation to the township board.  The process would only stop if the applicant withdrew the request.)

         I utilize the book titled Michigan Zoning & Planning, Third Edition by Clan Crawford Jr. a great deal when looking for answers or for citing information in staff reports on rezonings, text amendments, or plans.  It is from the Institute of Continuing Legal Education out of Ann Arbor. 
    ----Trudy Galla, Planning Director, Leelanau County
         The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act requires if the governing body (county board, township board, village or city council) wishes to act counter to a planning commission's recommendation, the first time they receive the ordinance, the government body must first send it back to the planning commission for further consideration (M.C.L. 125.3401(3)).  The second time the planning commission sends a recommendation, on the same amendment, to the governing body the governing body can proceed to act counter to the recommendation or adopt an amended version  (M.C.L. 125.3401(5)).
    ---Kurt H. Schindler
    Conditions on Zoning a Amendment What is the definitive answer to the question of whether a planning commission and township board can place conditions on a rezoning?  For example, a petitioner is requesting to rezone a 2 acre piece (which fronts a public road) of a parent 12 acre property from 10 acre minimum to 2 acre.  The Parent parcel would still have sufficient road frontage along a private road access into a subdivision.  Can the Planning Commission and Township Board allow to rezone the property on the condition that only the 2 acre piece be zoned, with the remaining parent parcel staying 10 acre.  I've seen references to a Michigan Supreme Court decision that said conditions can be placed on rezonings, but I can't find the actual case anywhere on the Michigan State Supreme Court web site. 
    (July 1, 2002, updated Feb. 2005, updated May 12, 2006)
         A municipality can not place restrictions on a rezoning (except as noted below).  A rezoning is the same thing as amending the zoning ordinance.  That is a legislative action, which changes a local ordinance, which must be applied on an equal basis to everyone.  Once land is rezoned, the future use of that land must comply with the provisions of the zoning ordinance dealing with that zoning district, as well as other general provisions of the zoning ordinance.  Once the municipality adopts a zoning amendment/rezoning it continues in place until the municipality takes another action to change, or repeal, it.
         The exception is "conditional zoning" (M.C.L 125.3405) based on 2004 amendments to zoning enabling acts. This is where an amendment is adopted on the basis of an agreement with a landowner to do a specific thing with a specific parcel. It has to be proposed by the applicant (not the municipality). Careful review of the applicable statute, knowledge of proper negotiation, and involvement of an attorney should be part of this process. Conditional zoning should not be done unless first amending one's zoning ordinance with a number of provisions that spell out due process, procedure, and other such details. The Michigan Townships Association has developed an excelent model zoning language to for this purpose. A community also has the option to specify in their zoning that this option will not be used.
         Conditions can be placed on a variance.  Conditions can be placed on a special use permit.
    ----Kurt H. Schindler 

    Amending the Zoning Map      The County Planning Commission will have a rezoning request for 80 acres. Half is currently RP2.5 (min. lot size or density factor of 2.5 acres) and the other 40 acres is RP5 (5 acre min. lot size or a density factor of 1unit/5 acres. 
          The Zoning Administrator has presented the case to the Planning Commission to approve the rezoning of the 80 acres to R-2 (a density factor of 15,000 sq. ft.or the min. lot size of District) subject to or conditionally upon approval of a PUD Application or PRD Special Use Permit. I am concerned about approval of a Zoning Ordinance amendment or Map Amendment with any conditions. I do not believe this is legal. Is this true and if so do you know any case law or can you give me any situations?
          My other concern is that changing the Zoning without fully knowing the plans for the site may backfire. The developer could pull the SPLU Application or not do it at all and file for a Subdivision without Planning Commission approval. 
    (Nov. 29, 2000; updated Feb. 2, 2005)

    Part One: 
         The county board can not "conditionally" amend the zoning ordinance.  Changing the zoning ordinance is a legislative action which can only be reversed by the County Board coming back and amending the zoning ordinance again to undo the first amendment (repeal it).  The legal principle is that a legislative act (adopting an ordinance) is final. 
         The work-a-round would be to do the following:  Zoning amendment is proposed.  Planning Commission reviews/prepares draft of the amendment, holds the public hearing on the amendment, revises the amendment based on comment at the hearing, then adopts a motion which says to effect, we will act to send the amendment to the county board if/when the PUD Application or PRD Special Use Permit is approved.  Thus, county board is not presented with the amendment to adopt until after the PUD/PRD is approved. 
         The flaw with this approach is technically you may not be able to accept, review and process the PUD and/or PRD application before the ordinance is actually amended.  If you have angry folk out there, they will challenge the planning commission on this technicality. 
         Even after a PUD/PRD is approved and amendment adopted, the landowner can then change his mind and do something else allowed by the amended zoning ordinance. 
         Bottom line is once the ordinance is amended, that is what it is, and anyone can apply to do any of the permitted or possible special uses for that zoning district.  (For example, your applicant dies, goes bankrupt, or is unscrupulous, then the land owner (same person or next person) can have an entirely different project in mind.
    Part Two: 
         What a person's specific plans are for a specific parcel of land should have absolutely no bearing on if a zoning amendment should be adopted or not.  The review if a zoning amendment should be adopted or not should be based on: 
    1. Compliance with the county plan. 
    2. If not in compliance with the county plan, then are ALL the uses and possible special uses in the proposed zoning district appropriate for that location? If so then amend BOTH the plan and zoning ordinance?  (End result:  zoning complies with the county plan.) 
         If you base a zoning amendment on the merits of a specific proposal, then yes, the landowner or future landowners can pull a bait and switch.  THEY HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO DO SO under normal circumstance. Under normal circumstances a developer can not be required to give any detail about a specific project when asking for a zoning change -- only has to provide his request for the zoning change, pay the fee, etc. 
         Only recently, in Michigan, is it legal to have "conditional zoning" (M.C.L 125.3405) where an amendment is adopted on the basis of an agreement with a landowner to do a specific thing with a specific parcel. It has to be proposed by the applicant (not the local government). Careful review of the applicable statute, knowledge of proper negotiation, and involvement of an attorney should be part of this process. Conditional zoning should not be done unless first amending one's zoning ordinance with a number of provisions that spell out due process, procedure, and other such details. The Michigan Townships Association has developed an excelent model zoning language to for this purpose. A community also has the option to specify in their zoning that this option will not be used.
    ----Kurt H. Schindler 


    Have an area with out a zoning district
    One-to-One relationship between zoning text and zoning map.
         Is it legal to have no zoning district assigned to a portion of a community?  Such as: an interstate freeway interchange and similar rights-of-way. Do such areas have to be placed in some zoning district?  Other approach would be to create another district for areas dedicated to transportation rights-of-way. 
         Is it okay to have a zoning district in the text of the ordinance, but not on the zoning map, or visa versa?

    (March 31, 2003)
         There are a number of issues here.
         First, one should zone all territory within your political boundaries, including public lands (National Forests, State Forests, road right-of-ways (freeway interchanges), etc.)  Most public agencies are also subject to zoning.  The exceptions are few see Restrictions on Zoning Authority on this web page for a list.

         Second, if the map does not show zoning, then one can argue, and may well be successful, to say if not in a zoning district then there is not any zoning and someone in those areas can do whatever they want without needing zoning approval.

         Third, I am not aware of a statute or case law that makes it illegal to have a part of the municipality without a zoning district.  Statute specifically allows zoning to be adopted for only part of a jurisdiction.  (For example if a community wanted to have zoning to protect a river, but not have zoning in other areas of a community, they could, by adopting a zoning ordinance for land along both sides of the river.)

         Fourth, my personal preference in drafting a zoning ordinance is to always have a one-to-one relationship to each zoning district shown on the zoning map and the corresponding text in the zoning ordinance.  Thus I would not have a "color" on the map that has no corresponding text in the zoning ordinance.

        Fifth, public agencies always can sell, buy, trade land and rights-of-way.  Also MDOT can choose to use the land for something else (salt barn, road crew garage, computer parking lot) which may, or may not be wanted or desired based on the community plan and zoning if there was zoning.  Those things, or a new land owner can then act to start to change the land use way before zoning can be changed (or added to an area).  The approach to create specific zoning district for "transportation rights-of-way" could be one way to handle it.  That would zone the land something, and would then require someone to initiate the process for a zoning amendment.

    ----Kurt H. Schindler

    Amending Zoning 
    Has anyone ever been successful in having a township zoning board reverse the zoning in their township from R1 to Ag?  This is a question that I have had and would like some examples. 
    (March 7, 2001)
         The concern to rezone from R-1 to an Agricultural is that it is usually "downzoning", meaning one is changing from a more permissive zoning district to a less permissive zoning district.  Thus, the community needs to do its homework, and create the paper trail of that homework so it can document and justify its decision to change the zoning.  The best way to do that documentation is to first amend the municipality's plan.  (Michigan Statute requires zoning be based on a plan.)  The plan change should be based on a resource analysis, public participation, and basic planning practices. 
         To be more specific with a response, one needs to know more specifics on the type of  "R-1" zoning district and the type of "Agricultural" district (e.g. agricultural preservation (and what type of preservation technique), rural residential (farm and dwelling permitted uses, on small parcels (1, 2, 10, 20 acres),  or some other concept.  
    ----Kurt H. Schindler 

    Adopt Part of a Zoning Ordinance I have a township that is trying to adopt a new zoning ordinance.  It appears there is one section that is very controversial and there is a group that will probably try a referendum if the Board passes the ordinance.  Otherwise, the ordinance looks pretty good and is an improvement over the old one (1969).  Are you aware of any townships that have adopted a zoning ordinance without an article in it, and then continued to work on that Article and added it to the ordinance later?  I'm trying to see if that is a possibility for them to at least get 95% of this thing adopted; if they could adopt the ordinance, minus Article 10, and continue to work on that.  Let me know your thoughts, or any back up data you may have on this. 
    (August 21, 2002)
         Does a township adopt all but one part of a zoning ordinance, with work on that part to continue for a later amendment.  Well, that depends on what Article 10 is.  If it is one of the statute-required articles then the article must be included (but maybe use the same text as was found in the old ordinance for the time being).  Statue-required articles are those parts that deal with basic legal causes (authority, purpose, effective date, etc); some definitions; some general regulations; establishing the zoning map; text for any zoning district that is shown on the zoning map; permit process and procedures; special use process and procedures (if special use permits are being used); PUD (if PUD is being used); nonconformities; ordinance administration; appeals board; amending, validity, enforcement and penalties.) 
         If it is not one of those, then:  Yes.  That is done quite commonly. 
         One might also codify a zoning ordinance which intentionally leaves gaps between numbered articles so that others can be added at a future date.  For an example of codification click here
         It is also possible for the angry people who do not like article 10 to petition to just place article 10 on the ballot, rather than the entire zoning ordinance.  While that can be done, I have yet to see a group of people target their objections that specifically, and so they petition to put the entire zoning ordinance up for a vote. 
    ---Kurt H. Schindler 

    Petition Zoning to a Vote Is there any summary or handout on the process to be followed for a referendum on a rezoning?  I got asked today by a township.  They approved a rezoning and they are being petitioned for a referendum.  I know what steps need to be followed as far as filing the notice of intent, petition, etc., but is there something in writing that they can use to place it on the ballot, etc.  
    (August 22, 2002)
         Closest I have is this PDF file on influencing zoning amendment decisions and a more similar material  on this web page
         From the petitioner's standpoint: the petition, and its preparation, etc. is a legal type issue.  So the main, most important, (and only) step is HIRE A LAWYER. 
         From the township's standpoint:  It is the duty of the clerk.  S/he will work with the County Clerk to set up what needs to be done.  Also, the township should consult with their lawyer.  Michigan Secretary of State's Election Bureau would be another source of information.  Within Extension, go to our campus-based State and Local Government Specialist, John Amrhein

    Permit Approval based on What Zoning Says on Date Application is Received.   Back in April a man submitted plans for site condos on 30 acres.  He presented it to the board to make sure it would meet our zoning. It did at that time and was approved.  He did not follow through on it immediately. It stopped there, now he wants to begin in the next couple of months.  In the meantime we adopted a new zoning ordinance.  His project does not comply with the new zoning. The question is, does he proceed under his approval from the old zoning, or does he have to comply with the new zoning ordinance? 
    (March 31, 2003)

        Anyone who applies for a permit, or zoning approval, or land division approval gets that approval based on what your zoning ordinance says on the date that a complete application is received by the zoning administrator. 
         (Many zoning ordinances, the zoning administrator has a job to first review an application and determine that it is complete.  Once complete, then that is the date.  And whatever the zoning says on that date (not future changes or amendments) is what one goes by.) 
         Review/approval is done based on the rules and ordinances in effect on the date a complete application is received:  One can not change the requirements for an individual project part way through the approval process, or part way through the construction process.   (Usually, once a land division approval and zoning ordinance permit is granted, it is forever, and runs with that particular parcel of land.  Sometimes a zoning ordinance says a permit not used within X days can expire.  That would have to be written in the zoning ordinance.)
         See also this question and answer.
    -----Kurt H. Schindler 


    Amendment & Permit at the same time       We have a resident who wants to put up some storage buildings on property currently zoned Ag along a major twp thoroughfare where commercial uses are consistent with our master plan.  Storage buildings are a conditional use in C-1 zoning here, so not only does he need a conditional use permit, he also needs a rezoning to  C-1. 
        We've never done a combo like this before - he doesn't need the rezoning if he can't get his conditional use permit, and he doesn't need the permit if he can't get his rezoning.  Does anyone have any suggestions for an efficient way to handle this?  Other thoughts?  
    (June 20, 2002)
         He first seeks to amend the zoning ordinance (the re-zoning).  
    Then, if the amendment is adopted, he applies for the special use permit (conditional use permit). 
         Life has risks.  He needs to decide if he wants to take the risk.  It is not a "combo".  It is two separate requests, handled sequentially. 
         Another option would be to seek an amendment that adds "storage buildings" to the list of permitted uses in the Ag district (or add "storage buildings" to the list of special uses (conditional uses) in the Ag district.  Such a request may or may not be adopted, depending on compliance with the Plan. 
    ----Kurt H. Schindler 
         Require applications for both.  Notice both.  Hold a public hearing for both.  Thave the planning commission take action on both at the same meeting, with the two actions tie-barred.  Use the most restrictive notice requirements throughout the process.
    ----Bryan Armstrong, AICP, Michigan Department of Transportation
         Before proceeding with the idea of simultaneously processing a zoning amendment and special use permit with the two actions tie-barred, run that past your municipal attorney.  I have worked with some attorneys who feel strongly such a procedure can not be done.  Others do not have such strong feelings.  Go with what your municipal lawyer says. 
    ---Kurt H. Schindler 

    Conditional Rezoning Do you know of any “contract zoning” or “conditional rezoning” cases in Michigan, since the recent law went into effect, that might be good examples of how to handle the issue? We’ve attempted one in our township but it was less than ideal and I wouldn’t want to use it as a “template”. I would like to have a clear idea of how to use this tool. (May 15, 2006)

         I have not seen any court cases at the appeals court, or higher, level in Michigan. I would not know of district or circuit court cases. If there were cases in the lower courts they were settled, not appealed, or have not reached the appeal stage yet.
         My advice is for a community not to issue conditional rezoning unless the zoning ordinance has been amended to include specific procedures for how conditional rezoning is handled and what is included in such a process and in the conditional rezoning agreement. Without such an amendment there are important due process considerations which are missing which can get a community into trouble.
         By far the best example to follow for conditional rezoning language is the model developed by and made available by the Michigan Townships Association. It is written specifically for Michigan law, fills in those due process issues, and more. I have not seen any other sample that comes anywhere close to doing as good a job. MTA model is found at this web page.
         If you are looking for a template for the conditional rezoning agreement, the Spring Planner's Institute for 2005 had a one among its handouts. You could probably contact Michigan Association of Planning to obtain a copy of that.
         A local government planning commission (or anyone else) cannot ask, hint, or suggest, a developer make the initial offer for conditional rezoning. Once a developer has volunteered to apply for a conditional rezoning, the rezoning agreement can be negotiated --with very strict limits on what can and can not be negotiated expressed in case law (mainly from other states). The local government should have their very experienced zoning attorney do so on behalf of the planning commisison and/or actively involved at the meetings on the conditional rezoning.
         (It is not "contract" zoning. That is something else, and is still illegal in Michigan, as well as most states.)
    ----Kurt H. Schindler

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    2001 Planning & Zoning Amendments | 2004 Land Use Legislation | 2006 Michigan Zoning Enabling Act | 2008 Michigan Planning Enabling Act | |Kurt Schindler
    Kurt H. Schindler, Land Use Educator, MSU Extension, Benzie County; 448 Court Place, Beulah, Michigan 49617-9518 | (231)882-0026 | SCHINDL9@anr.msu.edu | fax(231)882-9605 | Coordinates: N 44° 37' 31.2636", W -86° 5' 34.875" | Map of office location