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Thread: Policy versus ordinance: Michigan

  1. #1
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    Policy versus ordinance: Michigan

    At what point must a City policy be backed up by a City Ordinance? If the Planner has a policy that is not supported by the ordinance, or even violates/ignores a definition given in the ordinance...at what point can the City be challenged legally for policy not supported by ordinance?

  2. #2
    This really depends on the particular state requirements. Here in Washington State, all implementing ordinances are required to be consistent with the comprehensive plan. The truth is the comprehensive plan articulates a community's vision for the future. While consistency with that vision within the zoning and other ordinances is a minimum goal, it does not guarantee that the vision will actually be implemented. It's all in the way the zoning ordinance is written as to how effective it is in turing the vision into reality. Are there incentives that entice developers to create what it is that the community wants? We can't always simply REQUIRE everything. Development would go elsewhere.

  3. #3
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    This isnt a master plan issue, it relates to a specific issue. IE: if the ordinance definition clearly defines a sign, can a Planner ignore that definition and reclassify a certian type of sign into it's own catagory of sign and then apply requirements to that type of sign when there is no such mandate in the ordinance. In fact the policy allows this type of sign in addition to anouther sign, when the ordinance clearly allows only one. ????????

  4. #4
    Cyburbian boiker's avatar
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    policy is determined by the Zoning Administrator in our ordinance. If there is an interpretation that is to be made of the code, the ZA makes that interpretation.

    Of course, if you disagree with the ZA's policy, you can appeal that decision to the Board of Zoning Appeals..
    Dude, I'm cheesing so hard right now.

  5. #5
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Do you mean, as a staff planner, making up spur of the moment, convenient ordinances? Good luck to you if you get challenged on that.

    As pointed out, the Zoning Administrator is the first line judge of an ordinance. If you don't like his opinion, go to the ZBA. This is generally how it works in our state. If you've been classifying a sign that doesn't appear in your ordinance, you need to GET that sign into your ordinance, or your interpretation is not enforceable.
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  6. #6
    Cyburbian DecaturHawk's avatar
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    The Michigan Court of Appeals has already decided this issue. In Cole's Home and Land v. City of Grand Rapids, which is a published opinion, the COA stated that land use decisions cannot be enforced if there is no rule of law behind them. The City of Grand Rapids attempted to deny a plat of subdivision based on the Master Plan and their Street Design Guidelines. The Court found that the City's basis of rejection was not those listed as allowable under the Land Division Act. The LDA states "Approval of a preliminary plat, or final plat shall be conditioned upon compliance with all of the following...b) Any ordinance or published rules of a municipality or county adopted to carry out the provisions of this act."

    The Court found that the Master Plan and the Street Design Guidelines do not fall under the definition of an "ordinance or published rules." You can read the decision here: Cole's Home and Land v. City of Grand Rapids

    Therefore, a policy not backed up by ordinance can be challenged and, based on the Court's opinion, appears to have little chance of prevailing in court.

    Have fun with that one!
    SOME say the world will end in fire, Some say in ice.
    From what I’ve tasted of desire
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    But if it had to perish twice, I think I know enough of hate
    To know that for destruction ice
    Is also great
    And would suffice.

    Robert Frost (1874–1963) (From Harper’s Magazine, December 1920.)

  7. #7
    Quote Originally posted by rpa View post
    This isnt a master plan issue, it relates to a specific issue. IE: if the ordinance definition clearly defines a sign, can a Planner ignore that definition and reclassify a certian type of sign into it's own catagory of sign and then apply requirements to that type of sign when there is no such mandate in the ordinance. In fact the policy allows this type of sign in addition to anouther sign, when the ordinance clearly allows only one. ????????
    In my jurisdiction, this would not only be grounds for a reversal in court, but for terminating the offending planner. Seriously.
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