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Legal Defense Fund Top 25: Case 25

Papadelis v City of Troy

478 Mich 934 (2007)

Issue: Right to Farm Act

The Papadelis family owned two parcels of land in Troy, both of which were zoned one-family residential. Papadelis has operated a retail nursery business on the south parcel. Although the use was not permitted, a previous court decision allowed Papadelis to continue the business on the south parcel as a nonconforming use. A ruling in that decision also indicated that Papadelis could not use the north parcel for any use other than that allowed on residential property. Papadelis then acquired additional land on the north totaling more than five acres.

Troy’s zoning ordinance provided that agricultural uses are permitted on residentially zoned parcels that exceed five acres. In 2003, Papadelis erected two large greenhouses and a pole barn on the north parcel without obtaining a permit claiming that they were exempt from doing so under the Single State Construction Code Act and Michigan’s Right to Farm Act (RTFA). The trial court and the Court of Appeals broadly interpreted the RTFA, essentially precluding the enforcement of any municipal land use ordinance against an agricultural operation unless there was a direct violation of a provision of the RFTA or any published generally accepted agricultural and management practice (GAAMP).

Why did the LDF get involved?
If left unchallenged, the decision, together with other recent Court of Appeals’ decisions construing the RTFA, would place municipalities throughout the state in a position of having no authority to enforce local zoning in situations involving commercial operations that meet the broad definition of a farm under the RTFA.What action did the LDF take?
Filed an amicus brief with the Michigan Supreme Court

What was the outcome?
The Michigan Supreme Court found in favor of Troy and reversed the decision of the Court of Appeals, clarifying that municipal ordinances are only preempted under the RTFA if they directly conflict with a provision of the RTFA or published GAAMP. The Court also ruled that the greenhouses and pole barn were not used for purposes “incidental to the use for agricultural purposes of the land on which the building is located.”

Who prepared the amicus brief?
Eric D. Williams

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