blog, articles & publications

The Court of Appeals decides a township zoning board of appeals case by according great deference to the municipality.

On January 21, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision in Nixon v Webster Township (Case No. 343505; 2020 WL 359625) involving the Webster Township Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”).  The ZBA interpreted the Webster Township Zoning Ordinance and concluded that wedding barns are not included within the definition of “Seasonal Agri-Tourism” pursuant to the Webster Township Zoning Ordinance.  On appeal, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court reversed the ZBA’s decision and held in favor of the property owner.  The Court of Appeals later reinstated the ZBA’s decision.  The Court of Appeals reiterated that courts must show great deference to a decision by a municipal zoning board of appeals and other municipal zoning bodies.  The trial court below did not accord the appropriate deference to the ZBA’s expertise and knowledge of local matters.    Read More

THE MICHIGAN LAKES & STREAMS ASSOCIATION, INC. ANNUAL CONVENTION – 2020

Cliff Bloom will be teaching seminars on May 1 and 2, 2020 at the annual Michigan Lakes & Streams Association Convention at Crystal Mountain in Northern Michigan. The topics will include water/riparian law, buying and selling waterfront property, local government regulation of the waterfront, easements and similar issues.  Read More

How Can Municipalities in Michigan Deal with High Water Levels?

During 2019, many municipalities throughout Michigan, both on the Great Lakes and involving inland lakes, experienced severe high water problems. Those problems include shoreline erosion and degradation, flooded basements, interference with municipal water and sewer systems, overflowing retention and detention basins, closed roads, crumbling infrastructure and many other water challenges. For the Great Lakes, the United States Army Corps of Engineers believes that water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron may be from 10 to 20 inches higher during the summer of 2020 than in 2019. That may spell disaster for a number of Michigan communities.   Read More

Easement and Gate Decision

In Smith v. Straughn, ___ Mich App ___ (2020), decided on January 28, 2020 (Case No. 345391; 2020 WL 448304), the Michigan Court of Appeals has modified slightly the long-standing precedent that it is impermissible to install a gate across an easement except where such a right has been specifically reserved in the easement language. See, Cantieny v. Friebe, 341 Mich 143; 67 NW2d 102 (1954). The Straughn case holds that unless the plain language of the easement unambiguously forbids a non-obstructive gate, such gates may be permitted if reasonable under the circumstances. Here, the Court held that because the gate was not locked and its installation was not motivated by the goal of excluding the easement beneficiary, it was permitted.  Read More