Amicus Brief

Buffalo Realty and Grand Rapids Outdoors v City of Grand Rapids and City of Grand Rapids Board of Zoning Appeals

Case Year: 2014
Case Forum: Michigan Court of Appeals
Keywords: billboards, zoning, nonconforming uses, Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), board of zoning appeals (BZA)
Amicus Counsel:

Eric D. Williams (P33359) | 524 North State Street | Big Rapids, MI 49307 | 231-796-8945 | [email protected]


The general standard of review applied to a decision of a zoning board of appeals is stated in MCL 125.3606(1), to ensure the decision (a) complies with the constitution and laws of the state, (b) is based upon proper procedure, (c) is supported
by substantial evidence, and (d) represents the reasonable exercise of discretion granted by law.The Grand Rapids zoning ordinance recognizes nonconforming uses and structures, and states “[i]t is the intent of this Chapter to permit nonconforming lots, buildings, structures, and uses to continue until they are removed, but not to encourage their continued use or survival.
Appellant Buffalo Realty offers nothing in support of its claim, other than its ownership of the land at 410 Pearl Street, and the general proposition that “[t]he law has well established that such a vested property right rests with the site owner/lessor.” Buffalo Realty cites no statute, ordinance, or reported case that describes or acknowledges this “well established law” in Michigan. Buffalo Realty never owned and held an absolute right to erect and display a billboard on the site. At most, the right to erect and display a billboard at was subject to the City zoning ordinance, which was amended in 2008 to prohibit billboards in the zoning district where 410 Pearl Street is located. Once the nonconforming billboard was demolished and removed, the nonconforming billboard use ended, and Buffalo Realty had no right to resume that nonconforming billboard use.


The Court orders, pursuant to the terms of the stipulation filed by the parties under MCR 7.218(B), that this appeal is dismissed with prejudice and without costs.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Buffalo Realty owns the land at 410 Pearl Street and leased the right to erect, operate, and remove a billboard. The City of Grand Rapids amended its zoning ordinance in 2008, making it illegal to place a billboard on the site. The lessee demolished and removed its billboard in 2011. Buffalo Realty’s new lessee applied for a permit to erect another billboard on the site and was turned down because billboards are prohibited in that zoning district. Buffalo Realty and its new lessee ask the Court of Appeals to order the City of Grand Rapids to issue a permit for a new billboard to be constructed at the site, contrary to the zoning ordinance, claiming Buffalo Realty owns a “vested right” to continue the nonconforming use established and terminated by the prior lessee.

Case Number: 2013-13
©2022 Michigan Municipal League LLC. All rights reserved