Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 1, 2016

MI Appeals Court Upholds Township’s Enforcement of Ordinance and Orders Landowners to Cease Business Operations on Their Land Finding no Nonconforming Use Status

The Petty and Hoskins families each owned property in Lyon Township, which they used as their primary residences and the sites of their family-owned business operations: Hoskins Landscaping and Petty Trucking. Their commercial uses violated the township’s zoning ordinance since they opened shop; however, as the residential neighborhood developed around them, these uses became problematic and the township enforced its ordinance by ordering a stop to the business activities. The circuit court upheld the township’s zoning authority.

The Hoskins and Petty families contended that the township’s decades-long pattern of ignoring their zoning violations, and the investments the Hoskins and Petty families made in their businesses as a result, precluded the township from taking enforcement action. However, Petty defendants made no allegations and presented no evidence regarding any expenditure or action to adapt or improve their property to suit their businesses. Because of this, the Petty’s created no question of fact on the element of prejudice and their claim fails as a matter of law. Additionally, neither set of defendants made any allegation that their property could not be used for other purposes allowed under the zoning classification. Accordingly, neither defendant could establish that their expenditures were wasted or that their property was unfit for any use within the zoning classification. Moreover, the court found that as a matter of law, $7,000 worth of additions to a storage barn fell short of the “substantial change in position” or “extensive obligations and expenses” necessary for equity to overcome a township’s zoning authority. Accordingly, the court held that the circuit court properly determined that Lyon Township could enforce its zoning ordinance and order an end to defendants’ commercial uses, which had always been prohibited on their residential/agricultural land.

Charter Township of Lyon v Petty, 2016 WL 5946768 (MI App. 10/13/16)


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