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RE: SG-W:/ lawsuits and zoning



Jeff:

These are not definitive answers to your questions but based on my limited
knowledge of the issues:

>What's the point of having a zoning code at all if someone can come into
the
>courts and challenge the zoning?

Zoning, if it is well reasoned, can and does withstand legal challenges.
Understanding exactly how far you can push zoning regulations is a matter of
case law.  The folks at The Planning and Zoning Center are some of the most
knowledgeable in the state on what can and cannot be accomplished with
zoning in the state.

>Is it considered a taking if the zoning change isn't approved?  Will a
>township have to compensate the landowner?

The taking issue generally comes into play when a property is "down zoned".
For example, if a property was previously zoned four dwelling units an acre
and is rezoned to two dwelling units an acre.  Even then, the taking is only
applied when the landowner has made a real investment in developing the
land.  For example they have paid a consultant to draw up plans and begun to
finance the project.  The other cases generally involve what is seen as
arbitrary or exclusionary zoning.  Generally, if the landowner wins in court
they get to develop, I am not sure if the township would be liable for legal
and/or court costs.

>What can we do to support these townships in there efforts to do the right
>thing?

In the short term I always felt that township boards need reliable legal and
planning resources to turn to so they know how solid their case is and
appropriate planning techniques.  Many townships have a consultant familiar
with these issues that advises them on these issues, other do not.  It seems
a logical extension of county services to help with such matters, but I am
unsure of all of the ramifications of this idea.  Other thoughts have
included expanding the role of our county extension agencies.

One good example of county government helping the local jurisdictions with
such decisions is Livingston County Planning's series of guidebooks on a
variety of planning issues.  The intended audience is City and Township
planning officials.  They are a great summary of some of the current
thoughts.  One of the books deals with Open Space Planning and has case
studies and a model Open Space overlay zoning ordinance.  There is a small
fee for these books, but they are well worth it.  Their phone is
1-517-546-7555.  Southeast Michigan Council of Governments (SEMCOG) also has
some case study resources on model zoning and development practices.  Their
phone is 1-313-961-4266, website www.semcog.org.

Hope this helps.

- Norm
_______________________________________
Norman D. Cox, ASLA
The Greenway Collaborative, Inc.
150 South Fifth Avenue
Ann Arbor, MI  48104-1911
Phone: 734-668-8848  Fax: 734-668-8820
E-mail: normancox@greenwaycollab.com
Website: http://www.greenwaycollab.com/

-----Original Message-----
From: owner-smartgrowth-washtenaw@great-lakes.net
[mailto:owner-smartgrowth-washtenaw@great-lakes.net]On Behalf Of Jeff Surfus
Sent: Wednesday, September 22, 1999 9:37 AM
To: smartgrowth-washtenaw
Subject: SG-W:/ lawsuits and zoning

There is a very disturbing thing happening in our county and I sure would
like to see some brainstorming here about what to do about it.

Township governments have been very hesitant to stand up to developers and
big land owners because of the fear of lawsuits.  As Erica has said, there
is a farmer in her township threatening legal action if the township doesn't
rezone his property so he can sell it to a developer (Am I getting it right
Erica?).  In Sharon Township, the Board refused to rezone an agricultural
parcel so that a developer could bring in a large mobile home development.
Last week, he filed suit against the township.

My questions are:

What's the point of having a zoning code at all if someone can come into the
courts and challenge the zoning?

Is it considered a taking if the zoning change isn't approved?  Will a
township have to compensate the landowner?

What can we do to support these townships in there efforts to do the right
thing?

I think these questions get to the heart of the problem for many of the
townships in our county.

Any answers?

Jeff Surfus





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===============================================================
smartgrowth-washtenaw:  Internet List and Forum for issues relating to
sprawl, smart growth, and preservation of the quality of life in Washtenaw
County.

Postings to:  smartgrowth-washtenaw@great-lakes.net      For info, send
email to majordomo@great-lakes.net  with a one-line message body of  "info
smartgrowth-washtenaw"
===============================================================