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RE: SG-W:/ lawsuits and zoning




  It is also worth pointing out that the relevant legal document is not the
existing zoning, but the master plan.  Zoning is merely the current status
of specified land use, whereas the master plan is the municipality's
reasoned judgement about the future. Land owners can and do make plans on
the basis of the master plan, and can demand that zoning be changed to
reflect the master plan.

   For example, there is land in Pittsfield that is actively farmed and
zoned agricultural, but is "industrial" in the Pittsfield master plan.
Legally, any owner of the land can *demand* that the zoning be changed to
industrial whenever he wishes.

   The overwhelming legal significance of a Master Plan (aka Comprehensive
Plan) should not be forgotten.

   Usually, however, fights about zoning come to the fore too late - when
zoning is being changed, and not when the master plan is being re-written.
Once the Master Plan is set, there is very little that a municipality can
do later to oppose a zoning change that is in conformity with its own
Master Plan.

						- Bob Johnson



 >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.
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