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Thread: Must a county comply with the county’s zoning ordinances?

  1. #1
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    Must a county comply with the county’s zoning ordinances?

    Otsego County Michigan Commissioners want to build a new county jail in a location that is not zoned for a detention facility. Otsego County zoning ordinances are very specific regarding what zoning districts allow detention facilities (see http://www.otsegocountymi.gov/planningzoning/county_ordinance_nov_2006.pdf and search for “detention”). The only ordinances that apply to the proposed location are county zoning ordinances.

    Commissioners cite a Michigan court case (Pittsfield Township vs. Washtenaw County see http://courts.michigan.gov/supremeco...eld-119590.pdf) as precedent that will allow a county to disregard their own zoning laws. This case was a dispute between a township and a county where the township wanted the county to adhere to township zoning laws. The case made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court and this court decided in favor of the county. The case seems to make it clear that a Michigan county isn’t governed by township zoning, but, does this precedent allow a Michigan county to violate its own zoning ordinances?

  2. #2
    Cyburbian cch's avatar
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    My guess is that the county plans on seeking a rezoning for the subject property, to a zoning district that does permit detention facilities. As part of that process they will have to send notice to neighboring properties, publish a legal notice, and hold a public hearing on the matter. That is when citizens can come and voice opposition or support for the project.

    I'm guessing you are opposed to it, and if you plan on voicing your opposition I'd suggest you stick to the standards the commissioners are suppose to consider (the county zoning office should be able to give you a list of these standards, and they should be listed in the zoning ordinance). Try to offer compelling evidence for why the jail isn't just a bad thing for you personally, but bad for the entire area, if you can. Try to avoid being a NIMBY, or your case may fall on deaf ears.

  3. #3
    Cyburbian Coragus's avatar
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    Our interpretation in Washtenaw County is very adamant. I governmental entity is not subject to zoning interpretation, period. I'm familiar with the case that you referenced, and our lawyers have interpreted that as saying that we're immune to all zoning authority.
    Back home just in time for hockey season!

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    Forums Administrator & Gallery Moderator NHPlanner's avatar
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    Check your state's statutes. I know in NH governmental use of property is exempt from local land use regulations.

    http://www.gencourt.state.nh.us/rsa/...674/674-54.htm
    "Growth is inevitable and desirable, but destruction of community character is not. The question is not whether your part of the world is going to change. The question is how." -- Edward T. McMahon, The Conservation Fund

  5. #5
    I imagine the County could pretty easily change its zoning ordinances, thus solving the problem (if there is any to begin with).

    I'm not a lawyer, and I'm not sure exactly how this would come out. Counties in Michigan are required by state law to provide for county jails, and authorized to construct it anywhere in the county. I imagine this would probably trump any zoning regulations they had propogated.

  6. #6
    Cyburbian vagaplanner's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by RWM View post
    Otsego County Michigan Commissioners want to build a new county jail in a location that is not zoned for a detention facility. Otsego County zoning ordinances are very specific regarding what zoning districts allow detention facilities (see http://www.otsegocountymi.gov/planningzoning/county_ordinance_nov_2006.pdf and search for “detention”). The only ordinances that apply to the proposed location are county zoning ordinances.

    Commissioners cite a Michigan court case (Pittsfield Township vs. Washtenaw County see http://courts.michigan.gov/supremeco...eld-119590.pdf) as precedent that will allow a county to disregard their own zoning laws. This case was a dispute between a township and a county where the township wanted the county to adhere to township zoning laws. The case made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court and this court decided in favor of the county. The case seems to make it clear that a Michigan county isn’t governed by township zoning, but, does this precedent allow a Michigan county to violate its own zoning ordinances?

    If the County can't even abide by its own zoning laws, why would they expect anyone else to. This can be approached in two ways. Either rezone the property to a zoning district that will allow the detention center as a permitted use, or change the ordinance to allow detention centers in the zoning district where they want to put it.

  7. #7
    Cyburbian hilldweller's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by vagaplanner View post
    If the County can't even abide by its own zoning laws, why would they expect anyone else to. This can be approached in two ways. Either rezone the property to a zoning district that will allow the detention center as a permitted use, or change the ordinance to allow detention centers in the zoning district where they want to put it.
    I agree. Municipal/governmental land uses generate just as much impact as other uses, perhaps more (i.e. schools, parks, fire stations, water treatment, or jails in this case) and thus zoning would seem to be justified.

    By not following the zoning rules I would also think that the governmental agency would be depriving residents of their 14th Amendment right to equal protection under the law.

  8. #8
    Cyburbian
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    Quote Originally posted by RWM View post
    Otsego County Michigan Commissioners want to build a new county jail in a location that is not zoned for a detention facility. Otsego County zoning ordinances are very specific regarding what zoning districts allow detention facilities (see
    "Do as I say, not as I do" Power Corrupts
    Last edited by NHPlanner; 25 Jun 2007 at 9:44 PM. Reason: fixed quote tag

  9. #9
    Gunfighter Mastiff's avatar
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    Quote Originally posted by Inventor View post

    "Do as I say, not as I do" Power Corrupts
    While I actually agree that cities and counties should follow their own regulations, your delivery needs some work. Really. You don't like beaurocrats or government intereference, we get it.
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