Amicus Brief

Costco Wholesale Corp v City of Livonia

Case Year: 2014
Case Forum: Michigan Court of Appeals
Keywords: home rule, liquor licenses, liquor licensing, City and Village Zoning Act, zoning ordinance
Amicus Counsel:

Gerald A. Fisher (P 13462) | Secrest Wardle | 30903 Northwestern Highway P.O. Box 3040 | Farmington Hills MI 48333-3040 | 248-851-9500


Consistent with Michigan’s powerful tradition of home rule, and in view of the extensive study, analysis, and information uniquely local in nature required in order to prepare and
implement a zoning ordinance, it has been recognized that zoning decisions properly reside exclusively at the local government level. Moreover, it is well settled that, “Zoning, by its nature, is most uniquely suited to the exercise of the police power because of the value judgments that must be made regarding aesthetics, economics, transportation, health, safety, and a community’s aspirations and values in general. Within the more specific context, zoning decisions involving liquor licensing at particular sites, buttressing the requirement for local self-determination for zoning decisions in general,
Accordingly, it is no surprise that, when these local zoning and liquor licensing decisions are challenged, the integrity of the home rule structure in this State must be judicially due
deference. In good part because courts have not been engaged on the local “front lines” in terms of information gathering, study and analysis concerning local conditions, aesthetics, economics, transportation, health, safety, and the community’s aspirations and values, it has been mandated that local government judgments must stand unless they amount to an abuse of discretion. In this case, the proceedings conducted by the City of Livonia were eminently fair, and the record contains evidence to support the denial of the SDD licenses applied for by Plaintiff. Yet, upon judicial review, the City’s decision did not occupy the respected position compelled by Michigan zoning and liquor licensing jurisprudence. Rather, the Circuit Court reached an abrupt and unfounded “second guess” decision, effectively ignoring the judgment of the City. This contradiction of Michigan law may not be permitted to stand.


Court of APpeals:
Plaintiff Costco Wholesale Corporation (Costco) submitted applications to defendant, the City of Livonia (City), in which it sought waiver uses under the City’s zoning ordinances to permit it to sell liquor at each of its two Livonia stores, one located on Middlebelt Road and the other on Haggerty Road. Specifically, Costco sought the City’s approval to sell SDD-licensed beverages at both of its Livonia store locations.1 The City’s planning commission denied both applications and Costco appealed to the city council, which also denied the applications. Costco then filed an appeal in the Wayne Circuit Court, which reversed the city council’s decision. This Court subsequently granted the City’s application for leave to appeal, and stayed the circuit court order pending resolution of this appeal. We now reverse the circuit court’s order and remand for entry of an order reinstating the city council’s decision denying Costco’s applications.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Like most municipalities in this state, the City has enacted zoning ordinances to regulate the placement of liquor licenses within its boundaries. In particular, Livonia Zoning Ordinance No. 543 requires that SDD licenses be approved as waiver uses under § 11.03(r).

Case Number: 2004-10
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