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MI Court of Appeals Reverses Trial Court’s Decision That Property Owners Lacked Standing to Challenge a Township’s Amendment to its Zoning Ordinance.

This post originally appeared on the Dalton Tomich blog and is reposted with permission from Dan Dalton, Esq, –

in Montrief v. Macon Township Board of Trustees, the plaintiffs-landowners filed suit against the Township alleging an amended zoning ordinance was invalid and unenforceable based on a failure to comply with certain notice requirements.

Under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, an enforcing authority, which in most cases is the local government, must provide notice with respect to certain actions taken in zoning matters. Generally, among the most common actions requiring notice are the following:

  • Authorities must provide notice for public hearings held under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.
    • These hearings would involve matters such as violations, proposed rezoning of property, and supplements or amendments of zoning ordinances.
    • Notice for public hearings must include the date, time, and location of such hearings.
  • Authorities shall provide written notice to the landowner or occupant where it is determined that a zoning violation has occurred.
    • This particular notice must include the basis for why the violation was issued along with information for how to remedy it. It follows, authorities must also provide notice to landowners and/or occupants when any enforcement action is taken.
    • Instances such as these include ordering a building structure to be removed.
  • Notice of appeal hearings must be provided to all relevant parties.
    • Following a zoning decision, the landowner or resident can file an appeal by a specific deadline.
    • If an appeal is filed timely, that party is entitled to a hearing.

In case of Montrief v. Macon Township Board of Trustees, the Court of Appeals found that within the Township’s Zoning Ordinance Art. XXI, § 21.06, the Township was to follow a specific procedure when making amendments. Notably, one of the procedural requirements was to provide notice of public hearings, as echoed under state law. Further, the ordinance recognized aggrieved persons or those adversely affected by an alleged violation of the ordinance would have a legal cause of action. As such, the court found the Township failed to give notice to the plaintiffs-landowners, as provided under the procedural requirements. Therefore, the court found the zoning amendment passed in violation of the ordinance and state law. Such violation, the court concluded, contributed to the plaintiff’s interest as adversely affected parties, ultimately, giving them standing or a legal right to sue.

Thus, notice requirements under local ordinances and the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act must be strictly adhered to by enforcing authorities. And failure to do so may give rise to a property owner’s right to take legal action in civil court.