blog, articles & publications

Municipal Coronavirus Policies

Everyone hopes that the coronavirus will not be widespread in Michigan or, if it is, that it will be relatively mild and manageable.  Nevertheless, it would be prudent for Michigan municipalities (including cities, villages and townships) to adopt municipal rules for office, public gatherings on municipal property and similar venues.  Such a policy could include provisions such as when municipal office personnel should stay at home, how and when municipal meetings should be cancelled, rules regarding large gatherings in municipal buildings, parks or other public spaces and similar matters.  Of course, it would be best to have such formal policies and rules in place before the coronavirus is prevalent in your area of Michigan, if that occurs.  Our firm can help municipalities with the drafting and adoption of such coronavirus policies and rules.    Read More

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On January 21, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision in Nixon v Webster Township (Case No. 343505; 2020 WL 359625) involving the Webster Township Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”).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

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

JEFF SLUGGETT RECEIVES 2020 "BEST LAWYERS IN AMERICA" HONORS


We're pleased to announce that Jeff Sluggett has been selected by his peers for inclusion in "The Best Lawyers™ in America 2020” for his work in the area of Municipal Law.


This is the fourth time Jeff has been recognized as a Best Lawyer; in 2019 he received “Lawyer of the Year” honors, also by Best Lawyers.

Best Lawyers is a peer-review group, first published in 1983. The group recognizes outstanding lawyers, from more than 70 practice areas, who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Each selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Congratulations, Jeff, on a well deserved honor!  Read More

Municipal Authority to Enter and Make Safe Dangerous Buildings

A recent decision of the federal U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals has reaffirmed the authority of municipalities to require owners of vacant property to register the property with the municipality and permit municipal entry and abatement if it becomes dangerous.  
At issue in Benjamin v Stemple, Case No. 18-1736, was a City of Saginaw ordinance requiring owners of vacant property to register the property with the city clerk and to agree that city personnel may enter and make safe the premises if it is found to be “dangerous.”  A number of property owners in the city challenged the ordinance as unconstitutional on Fourth Amendment search and seizure grounds.
In finding for the city, the Sixth Circuit stated that the property owners were not surrendering any Fourth Amendment rights in registering their properties.  While the Fourth Amendment generally protects a person’s right to be free from unreasonable warrantless searches and seizures, an exception applies which permits administrative searches designed to assure compliance with building codes, including codes intended to prevent buildings from becoming dangerous to tenants or neighbors.  However, the Court emphasized that the “administrative search” exception is narrowly applied; it is only valid when procedures are in place that permit property owners to challenge before a neutral decision maker a building official’s request to enter a property suspected of being dangerous.  Accordingly, municipalities must provide property owners with a hearing at which both parties may make testimony, call witnesses, introduce evidence, and conduct cross examination.  Because Saginaw’s vacant building registration form and ordinance did provide for such an administrative process, the Court found that the property owners were not forced to waive any Fourth Amendment rights.
This court decision will likely be considered hereafter as a fairly limited exception to constitutional search and seizure safeguards.  Read More

2018 Legislative Update

As 2019 commences, there are a number of statutes that will begin to take effect (and that have already taken effect) as a result of legislation passed during Michigan’s 2018 lame duck legislative session.  The following is a brief summary of legislation passed during 2018 that may affect a number of our clients, as well as a number of House and Senate bills we were tracking that failed to become enacted.  Read More

Michigan Right To Farm Act Update

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently issued an unpublished decision interpreting the scope of the Michigan Right To Farm Act (the “Act”) and its protections for farm equipment against municipal zoning regulations.  In Lima Township v Bateson, unpublished opinion per curiam of the Court of Appeals, issued on October 11, 2018 (Docket No. 338934), Lima Township sought to enforce provisions of its zoning ordinance that prohibited the storage or staging of commercial vehicles and equipment used for commercial operations in one of its agricultural zoning districts.  In that case, a landowner had been keeping “gravel haulers, bull dozers, road graders,” and other industrial equipment on its property, claiming the equipment was used for commercial production related to a tree farm.  Read More

Jeff Sluggett Named 2019 Lawyer of the Year

Jeff Sluggett has been named the 2019 "Lawyer of the Year" by Best Lawyers® for his work in the field of municipal law. In addition, Sluggett was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2019 for the Grand Rapids metro area.  Read More

Michigan Court of Appeals Strikes Down Zoning Restriction on Protected Medical Marihuana Activity

The Michigan Court of Appeals recently struck down a municipal zoning provision which made it a local violation for registered caregivers licensed under Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act (“MMMA”) to partake in medical marihuana activities in a commercial zoning location.  In Deruiter v Township of Byron, the township permitted medical marihuana related use of property by a registered caregiver only as a “home occupation.”  Read More

Bloom Sluggett, PC, Secures a Major Victory for its Client and also Muncipal Zoning Boards of Appeals in Michigan.

On July 3, 2018, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in favor of a Bloom Sluggett, PC (“BSPC”) client, which had obtained a dimensional nonuse variance for a dwelling from the Chickaming Township’s Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”).  Read More