Friday, October 6, 2017 at 5:00PM
Clark Hill

A resident can challenge adverse zoning amendments by demanding that the change be ratified by a referendum if sufficient signatures can be obtained on a petition.

A resident has a remedy if a municipality implements a zoning change that is unpopular. MCL 125.3402 allows a resident to demand that a referendum ratify the amendment, assuming that enough petition signatures can be obtained. However, the right to demand a referendum must be exercised very quickly.

A municipality must publish changes to its zoning ordinance: “Within 7 days after publication of a zoning ordinance under section 401, a registered elector residing in the zoning jurisdiction of a county or township may file with the clerk of the legislative body a notice of intent to file a petition.”  After filing the notice, “the petitioner shall have 30 days following the publication of the zoning ordinance to file a petition signed by a number of registered electors residing in the zoning jurisdiction not less than 15% of the total vote cast within the zoning jurisdiction for all candidates for governor at the last preceding general election at which a governor was elected.”  The zoning ordinance does not become effective until either the petitioner who filed the notice fails to submit the necessary petition signatures, the clerk determines that the “petition is inadequate,” or if the petition is adequate “the ordinance is approved by a majority of the registered electors.”

This remedy has recently come into play for one of my clients. This blog post describes a favorable ruling that I obtained for Nixon Farms. In order to circumvent that ruling, Webster Township decided to amend its zoning ordinance, as described in this article published by the Michigan Farm Bureau. As a result, Nixon submitted a notice of intent and is collecting signatures, as described by this recent MLive article on the topic.

The power to legislate resides in the people. When it comes to local issues, if a few motivated citizens get involved, the people will ultimately have the ability to directly decide upon the zoning changes that they desire through the referendum process. This is a powerful tool.

If you have any issues with municipal regulations, please feel free to contact me.

Article originally appeared on Clark Hill Property Owner Condemnation Services (
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