Author Archives: Matthew Heron

Amending Deed Restrictions: Giving Meaning to Successive Terms without Ignoring Declarant Intent

Introduction

Restrictive covenants in Michigan are valuable property rights and have been effectively used to assist in the orderly development of Michigan communities.  The rights contained in restrictive covenants are used by developers to implement their community visions and by property owners to protect and enhance the value of their homes.  Once adopted these provisions often require unanimous consent to change or modify by default, however, in many cases the original declarant includes an amendment provision to permit a stated percentage of lot owners (or other interested parties), less than all, to adopt an amendment.  The effective date of an amendment, even if validly adopted, may be subject to interpretation if the restrictive covenant creates successive terms.  Any party seeking to adopt an amendment to its declaration should be aware of these risks and the potential impact of the expiration of a period of time contained in their declaration. Read more

“Necessary” Farm Operations under the Right to Farm Act: Township of Williamston v. Sandalwood Ranch, LLC

Introduction 

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently provided clarity regarding interpretation of the term “farm operations” under the Michigan Right to Farm Act, (“RTFA”), MCL 286.741, et seq., in Williamston Twp v Sandalwood Ranch, LLC, ___ Mich App __; ___ NW2d ___ (2018) (Docket No. 337469).  In its decision, the Court of Appeals held that in order for a use to be protected under the RTFA that use must be “necessary” for farm operations under the RTFA, and while “absolute necessity” was not required, such a use must be more than just a matter of convenience to warrant protection.

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The Growth of Form-Based Codes in Michigan Zoning

            In Michigan the governmental regulation of land use is largely achieved through the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, (“MZEA”), MCL 125.3101, et seq.  The MZEA allows local municipalities to adopt zoning ordinances which regulate the physical appearance and use of property within their jurisdiction.  For decades zoning ordinances adopted pursuant to the MZEA or its predecessors focused primarily on regulating the use of property, and not necessarily on the physical form of the property and its buildings.  Over the past two decades there has been a slow and gradual shift from use-based zoning to zoning based on the physical form of property, especially in downtown areas.

 

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Paragon Properties: The Rule of Finality in Challenging Municipal Land Use Decisions

 

            The relationship between municipalities and land developers is often one of compromise, with each attempting to find some middle-ground in order to move forward on a particular project.  In many instances, however, the municipality and developer are unable to reach such a compromise and the parties find that their positions are irreconcilable.  In such instances the developer may believe that their only next viable option is to seek redress in the court system.  But before doing so, it is important that a developer recognize the limitations on judicial review of land use decisions by a municipality.  Specifically, if a developer does not satisfy the “rule of finality,” the developer may find that they have no right to seek a judicial remedy at all.  The rule of finality helps to ensure that a municipality is given an opportunity to make a final decision on the matter before it.  Without such a final opportunity, judicial review is not available.

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Regulating Land Use: An Introduction to the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act


Introduction

            Zoning is the regulation of the use of land.  It is the exercise of police power intended to protect the public health, safety, and general welfare.  Zoning does not create divisions of land nor does it guarantee development.  Zoning constitutes an effort on the part of the designated governmental body to avoid land use conflicts between neighbors by ensuring that uses and structures are generally compatible with other uses and structures in the area.  It is a means to promote the welfare of the community by guiding orderly growth.

The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act

            In Michigan zoning is implemented and statutorily authorized under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, MCL 125.3101, et seq. (“MZEA”).  The MZEA was enacted in 2006 and consolidated several prior zoning enabling acts Read more