Amicus Brief

Northville Charter Twp et al v Northville Public Schools; Leonard Rezmierski, Superintendent; and Northville Public Schools Bd of Education COA

Case Year: 1999
Case Forum: Michigan Court of Appeals
Keywords: zoning, school siting, site plan review, Revised School Code
Amicus Counsel:

John H. Bauckham | Bauckham, Sparks, Rolfe, Lohrstorfer & Thall, P.C.

CoAmicus Parties:

Michigan Townships Association (MTA)


All Michigan statutes delegating zoning authority to local municipalities include authority to regulate the use of land for education, recreation, and other public service facilities to promote public health, safety and general welfare of their communities. The 1990 amendment to the school code was not intended to and does not elevate school board’s authority above reasonable local zoning regulations. Zoning ordinances cover many different facets of land use than “site plan
review. They include, for example, the classification of designated lands for permitted uses such as residential, commercial, industrial, institutional, and further include special land use provisions permitting certain specified uses only after public hearings and compliance with conditions and limitations specified for the approval of the same. Ordinances contain provisions for continuation of permissible non-conforming uses and variance procedures before a zoning board of appeals. These typical zoning provisions have nothing to do with “site plan review” which is authorized in a separate section of the Township Rural Zoning Act; in a separate section of the City and Village Zoning Act; and in the County Rural Zoning Enabling Act. On the school side, the language of the statute giving the superintendent of public instruction authority to review and approve “site plans for those school buildings” is ambiguous, should be interpreted in harmony with the clear language of the zoning enabling acts, and accordingly, should be limited to the school building and its protection and the safe guarding of students therein from dangerous or obnoxious adjoining uses.


Michigan Court of Appeals:
This case requires us to decide whether a provision of the Revised School Code, MCL 380.1263(3), exempts school construction projects from local land use regulations, including zoning controls and site plan reviews. Further, we must decide whether the statute unconstitutionally delegates legislative authority to the superintendent of public instruction. We conclude that the statute is constitutional and that its plain language exempts school construction projects from local land use regulations, including zoning and site plan reviews.

MSC requested LDF amicus brief? No

Defendants planned construction of a new high school in Northville Charter Township. The township, along with area residents, requested that defendants alter construction plans to accommodate their concerns regarding parking, buffering, setback, storm water control, and tree preservation issues. Defendants declined to adopt all the requested changes, taking the position that the Revised School Code exempted them from local zoning regulations. The township filed a circuit court complaint requesting declaratory and injunctive relief. Individual property owners intervened, filing their own complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. Plaintiff and intervenors filed motions for summary disposition under MCR 2.116(C)(9), seeking a declaratory ruling that defendants’ construction plans were subject to plaintiff ‘s local zoning regulations, including the site plan review process. The circuit court denied those motions, ruling that the Revised School Code exempted defendants from local zoning regulations. Intervenors appeal as of right from the circuit court’s decision.

Case Number: 1998-03-2
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