A new Michigan Court Rule governing appeals from zoning ordinance determinations should bring some clarity to the land use and zoning appeals procedure. MCR 7.122, which became effective May 1, 2012, provides a set of guidelines for appealing decisions of an entity empowered with making decisions pursuant to local zoning ordinances. Many of the Rule’s provisions already existed via case law, but this new Court Rule provides for more certainty and ease of access.
The Rule is clear that it does not apply to legislative decisions such as the adoption or amendment of a zoning ordinance. Additionally, the Rule states that a party may seek a stay of enforcement of an ordinance under MCR 7.123(E) and appeals under the new Rule are appeals as of right.
The Rule also supplies a time requirement: an appeal must be filed within the time limit prescribed by the statute which is applicable to the appeal or, if there is no time limit prescribed by statute, “the appeal must be filed within 30 days after the certification of the minutes of the board or commission from which the appeal is taken or within 30 days after the board or commission issued its decision in writing, whichever deadline comes first.”
Subsection (C) provides certain form-related requirements for appeals. The Rule incorporates the requirements of MCR 7.104(C)(1) with the exception that the town, city, village, township, or county under whose ordinance the determination in question was made shall be referred to as the “appellee.” The party contesting the determination will be known as the appellant. Other requirements are quite straightforward such as the requirement that each ground upon which relief is sought shall be set forth in its own paragraph.
Among other requirements, the Rule makes clear in subsection (D) that no bond is required from the appellant unless the court orders so, an issue over which there was some confusion prior to the Rule’s passing. The record on appeal must be provided by the government entity within 28 days after service of the claim of appeal. This record will consist in part of minutes of any relevant proceedings and the decisions which came from such proceedings.
The Rule provides that written briefs must comply with MCR 7.111. The Rule also provides that decisions under a zoning ordinance where there is no right of appeal to a zoning board, the court will review the decision and decide whether or not it was “authorized by law and the findings were supported by competent, material, and substantial evidence on the whole record.”
While the newly-minted MCR 7.122 does not answer every question about appeals of zoning decisions, it certainly provides a level of certainty not formerly available. Clarity regarding procedural issues is important as it can help ensure that more cases are decided on substantive merit rather than as a result of procedural missteps. Clarity regarding these zoning proceedings should aid novice and veteran land use and zoning attorneys alike.
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