REAL ESTATE 22: Court found denial of rezoning from multiple-family to commercial invalid.

This case arises out of plaintiff’s application to have a property rezoned from multiple-family residential to village commercial. The Property is located in a downtown commercial core district. A property directly north was rezoned from multiple-family residential to village commercial, the classification sought by plaintiff in this case.

In February 2015, plaintiff applied for the Property to be rezoned to “village commercial,” with the intent of operating it as a bar and restaurant. The Property contains five apartment units, all of which were occupied during this litigation.

At a March 9, 2015 meeting, the city council tabled plaintiff’s rezoning request and sent it back to the planning commission for it to address the option of “conditional rezoning” of the Property. Plaintiff submitted an amended application to rezone the Property specifically for use as a bar and restaurant.

At an August 3, 2015 planning commission meeting, after public comment, a motion to approve plaintiff’s request was defeated. Prior to the city council meeting, the person who had made the motion to zone the property as multiple-family residential in 1986, wanted to present to the council members the reasoning for his position that the Property’s zoning should not change.

He set forth three main reasons why plaintiff’s request should be denied.

  1. The request for rezoning is not consistent with the goals and objectives of our Master Plan.
  2. The request does not preserve the historic character of the City.
  3.  Protecting the viability of residential neighborhoods and having multiple family housing in the village center to contribute to the vitality of downtown businesses.

At an August 10, 2015 meeting, the city council upheld the planning commission’s recommendation to deny conditional rezoning for the Property with a vote of six to one.

In October 2015, plaintiff brought suit, alleging that the rezoning denial deprived it of its constitutional rights to equal protection and substantive due process. The parties filed competing motions for summary disposition. The briefs largely focused on whether defendant had treated the Property differently from other properties in the downtown area and whether it had legitimate reasons for doing so.

On January 4, 2017, the trial court agreed with plaintiff that the Property was being treated differently than similarly situated property and granted plaintiff summary disposition.

The court noted that a major reason for the rezoning denial was the need for a buffer between non-residential and residential districts. However, the court found that it was undisputed that several similar properties are zoned commercial without regard to proximity of residential zoning. In other words, the court determined, that it was undisputed that the city routinely does not impose the buffer or transition residential restrictions on similarly situated property, and therefore, the City’s decision to do so with Plaintiff’s Property is unreasonable and invalid.

Are you involved in a real estate dispute in Michigan? Are you seeking an efficient and effective resolution to a property litigation matter? If you are facing a residential or commercial real estate, seek the advice of an experienced and skilled real estate litigation attorney at Aldrich Legal Services in Plymouth.

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