Posted by: Patricia Salkin | January 6, 2014

Michigan Court of Appeals Upholds Local Zoning Ordinance Limiting Sales of Alcoholic Beverages at Automotive Service Stations

Maple BPA filed a complaint on February 16, 2010, seeking a declaratory judgment that Michigan state law preempts Bloomfield Township’s zoning ordinance, the ordinance violates the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, and the ordinance violates Maple BPA’s rights to due process and equal protection under the act. The trial court granted Bloomfield Township’s motion for summary disposition regarding Maple BPA’s constitutional claims, holding that Maple BPA failed to show that the ordinance was arbitrary and capricious.

In July 2010, Bloomfield Township amended the ordinance, which provides that automobile service stations may sell alcoholic beverages if they meet certain standards, including that (1) alcohol is not sold less than 50 feet from where vehicles are fueled, (2) no drive-thru operations are conducted in the same building, (3) the store meets minimum floor area and lot size requirements, (4) the store has frontage on a major thoroughfare and is not adjacent to a residentially zoned area, (5) the store does not perform any vehicle service operations that would require customers to wait on the premises, and (6) the store is either located in a shopping center or maintains a minimum amount of inventory. Bloomfield Township Ordinance, § 42–4.23. After Bloomfield Township revised the ordinance, it renewed its motion for summary disposition. The trial court granted Bloomfield Township’s renewed motion, concluding that state law did not preempt the ordinance as amended and that it did not violate the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act.

The Court of Appeals determined that since the Michigan Constitution provides that the Legislature may create a Liquor Control Commission, which “shall exercise complete control of the alcoholic beverage traffic within this state”. The Commission’s decision to recognize local zoning authority is indicative that the Legislature did not intend to preempt every local zoning statute that concerns alcoholic beverage sales. Because of this, the court found that the state had not expressly provided that its authority to regulate the field of liquor control is exclusive, and did not preempt the field

As to Maple BPA’s constitutional claims, courts presume that zoning ordinances are constitutional exercises of governmental power; the party challenging an ordinance has the burden to prove an arbitrary and unreasonable restriction upon the owner’s use of his property. Since Maple BPA provided no evidence that restricting the sale of alcoholic beverages at service stations fails to advance Bloomfield Township’s stated purposes of reducing alcohol-related deaths and injuries or fails to advance its other stated reasons, it failed to meet this burden.
Accordingly, the Court of Appeals of Michigan affirmed the trial court’s holding that a zoning ordinance limiting sales of alcoholic beverages at automotive service stations was not arbitrary and capricious in violation of due process or equal protection.

Maple BPA, Inc v. Bloomfield Charter Twp., 838 N.W.2d 915 (Mich. App.9/19/2013)

The opinion can be accessed at:

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