Amicus Brief

Herman v Berrien County

Case Year: 2008
Case Forum: Michigan Supreme Court
Keywords: firearms, shooting ranges, zoning ordinances, special use, county authority
Amicus Counsel:

John H. Bauckham
Bauckham, Sparks, Rolfe, Lohrstorfer & Thall, P.C.
458 W SOuth St
Kalamazoo MI 49007

CoAmicus Parties:

League LDF joined the Michigan Townships Association (MTA) brief


A county board of commissioners cannot legally determine the location of a 14-acre site for extensive outdoor firearms shooting ranges for its police and cannot construct such ranges contrary to the prohibitions and/or required special use procedures of the local duly adopted and county approved municipal zoning ordinances. It is uncontested that the intent of the legislature is the standard to be employed in construing statutes and in the case at bar, in construing the authority of a county board of commissioners as compared with the authority of a township board or city council to “determine the site of a county building” and an outdoor firing range. In construing legislative intent under MCL 46.11, consideration should also be given to legislative history which has provided counties with very limited authority compared to the authority the legislature has provided for townships and cities. The outdoor firearms shooting range complex (if it can be legally located contrary to local municipal zoning ordinances) is still prohibited for failure to comply with the local municipality’s “anti-noise” police ordinance. The noise ordinance serves a legitimate governmental purpose to protect the peace, quiet and repose of the affected residential community and is neither arbitrary nor unreasonable. It is well within municipal ordinance
authority and is in no manner preempted by any statutory provisions or authority allegedly delegated to counties.


MI Supreme Court:
The county’s shooting ranges do not have priority over the township’s ordinances because those local regulations do not conflict with the county’s powers under the CCA; as they apply to the shooting ranges, the regulations do not stop the county from exercising its limited power to site buildings. However, the county building, its parking lot, its driveway, and its lighting poles do have priority over the local regulations because they are indispensable to the normal use of the building.
Accordingly, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals and remand the case to the circuit court for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. We do not retain jurisdiction.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

This case involves a piece of property that is located in Berrien County and Coloma Township. The property consists of a 14-acre parcel of land. The property is controlled by defendant, Berrien County, under a 20-year lease from a party that is unrelated to this case. The county entered into the lease in March 2005. The county leased the property with the intention of using it for a firearms training facility, which various law enforcement agencies would use for training exercises. Accordingly, in May 2005, the county contracted with DLZ Michigan, Inc., to design a master plan and conduct a feasibility study for the proposed facility. This master plan included constructing a building of more than 3,000 square feet at the center of the parcel to serve as a training and support building. This building would have a parking lot with 24 standard parking spaces (and three handicapped spaces), multiple outdoor light poles, and a driveway. The facility would also have numerous outdoor shooting ranges. The ranges were to be set up like the spokes of a wheel that require the shooter to fire out from the center of the parcel. The center of the parcel is where the building would be located. Operation of the county’s shooting ranges would contravene several local ordinances. First, under the township’s zoning ordinance, the shooting ranges are not a permitted land use given the property’s current zoning status (primary agricultural). Additionally, gun clubs are not permitted in this zoning status unless the Coloma Charter Township Board has issued a special land use permit, which the county has
not received. Finally, the gun ranges produce noise levels that purportedly exceed the township’s anti-noise ordinance.

Case Number: 2007-14
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