In People of the City of St. Clair Shores v Dorr, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued October 29, 2020 (Docket No 349910), the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled—in a highly fractured opinion—that “a person of ordinary intelligence would reasonably understand from [a zoning ordinance that requires a home business be ‘incidental’ to the use of the dwelling as a dwelling] that the business therefore cannot be coextensive with the primary use of the dwelling as a dwelling.” As such, the Court of Appeals held that the City’s zoning ordinance prohibited him from using his home for short-term rentals through Airbnb.
On October 25, 2018, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unpublished opinion in the matter of Concerned Property Owners of Garfield Township, Inc v Charter Township of Garfield, unpublished per curiam opinion of the Court of Appeals, issued October 25, 2018 (Docket No. 342831). The Garfield case involved the interpretation of a zoning ordinance that addressed short-term rentals of residential properties in certain districts. In Garfield, a number of homeowners frequently rented out their homes for short-term intervals, usually for about one week in duration. In September 2013, the Garfield Township Zoning Administrator expressed an opinion that the zoning ordinance then in effect, called “Ordinance 10”, permitted short-term rentals.
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.
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.
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