Posted by: Patricia Salkin | November 23, 2018

MI Appeals Court in Dictum Suggests a Conflict of Interest Where Board Member’s Spouse Wrote a Letter and Appeared at Hearing in Opposition to Request

This post was authored by Touro Law student Thomas Brown ’20.

Rogers purchased a building used for industrial purposes which was non-conforming since 1994. He requested that the Zoning Board recognize the prior nonconforming use and was denied. Fowler, a member of the Board, owned the adjacent property, had tried to purchase the subject property but was outbid by Trail Side, and offered to purchase the property from Trail Side at the hearing. Fowler’s wife both wrote a letter and appeared at the hearing as a member of the public in opposition to Rogers’ petition, and Fowler did not abstain from voting on Rogers’ petition but instead supported another member’s motion to deny Rogers’ petition. He was absent at the next meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals when the minutes from Rogers’ appeal hearing were approved.   Rogers argued that this created a clear conflict of interest and that he was denied a fair, impartial hearing. Fowler was asked by Rogers’ counsel to disqualify himself from voting on this matter in light of his conflict of interest, but Fowler voted on and denied Rogers’ petition. The Michigan Court of Appeals reversed on the merits of the use running with the land, and so did not issue a holding regarding the alleged conflict of interest. However, it stated that there did in fact seem to be a conflict of interest because of the reasons stated above.

Trail Side LLC v. Vill. of Romeo, 2017 WL 2882554 (Mich. Ct. App. 7/6//2017)

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