Recently we’ve seen a trend of township governments passing ordinances regulating agriculture and related business activities, and the ordinances are in clear violation of the Michigan Right to Farm Act and other statutes and regulations. Farmers, county Farm Bureaus, and residents have spent a lot of time trying to educate township boards on Right to Farm, yet the township goes ahead and passes the illegal ordinance. At that point, recourse includes electing a new township board (easier said than done and does not ensure change) or suing the municipality. No one wants court battles as they are costly and time-consuming.
A solution to prevent lawsuits could be the creation of a statewide township zoning board of appeals to determine the legality and applicability of a zoning ordinance. This board would consist of zoning experts whose job would not be that of planning officials, but to review the ordinance to determine if it is legal. An example of a statewide appeals board is the Michigan Tax Commission where the first step is appealing at the township level.
Possible members of this board could be planning and zoning experts from Michigan State University, Michigan Townships Association, and representation from the Attorney General’s office. The board could also consult experts at the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development and other appropriate state agencies/organizations on zoning issues related to agriculture.
Matt Kapp | 517-679-5338
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