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Appeal of Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) decision to Circuit Court

Municipal / January 31, 2020

Court/Case No: Oakland County Circuit Court/19-145537-AA

Tried/Argued Before: Judge

Demand: Reverse or remand matter back to the ZBA

Verdict: Appeal dismissed

Name of Judge(s): Honorable Michael Warren

Keys to the Case:

A proposal was submitted to the ZBA to add a 16,778 square foot worship facility on property in Bloomfield Township, Michigan, to create a unified church/school campus. The Applicant filed a ZBA application seeking a variance of 3.22 acres from the required 10 acre site area for a public, parochial, or private school to allow the school site to be 6.78 acres and the church facility 3.22 acres. In the alternative, Applicant sought interpretation of Section 42-4.7.2 of the Bloomfield Township Zoning Ordinance that allows school-related church facilities to count toward the acreage of a religious school on the same parcel. Following a properly noticed public hearing, the ZBA granted the requested variance.

Subsequently, the neighbor to the south of the subject property filed a Claim of Appeal in the circuit court seeking the reversal of the ZBA decision or, in the alternative, the remand of the matter back to the ZBA on the grounds that the decision did not comply with the Constitution and laws of the State of Michigan, was not based on proper procedure, was not supported by competent material and substantial evidence on the record, and did not represent the reasonable exercise of discretion granted to zoning boards of appeal by law.

On appeal, the ZBA asserted, among other things, that for Appellant to invoke the jurisdiction of the circuit court as an aggrieved party, he would have had to demonstrate that he would suffer special damages as a result of the variance granted; Appellant failed to make such a demonstration. The Court agreed and held that the Appellant failed to invoke the jurisdiction of the circuit court. It was further argued that the decision did comply with the Constitution and State law because the ZBA properly applied the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA), the applicable Township ordinances, and the federal Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) in rendering its decision. Further, proper procedure was followed in noticing and holding a public hearing; there was competent, material, and substantial evidence on the record. In a lengthy Opinion and Order, the circuit court agreed that Appellant had failed to demonstrate that he was an aggrieved party, dispensed with oral argument, and dismissed the appeal.

Defense SW attorney(s) Involved in Case:


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