Rezoned Property Not Following Regulations

Visitor Question: If the Township granted a zoning amendment that would violate the new zoning district, for example changing agriculture/residential to Planned Business, as long as Planned Business doesn't impact other districts such as noise, vibration, glare, dust, smoke; however the new business WOULD violate the restrictions, how do the residents stop the new business from proceeding? Any direction you can provide will be greatly appreciated. Thank you!

Editors Reply: It sounds as if your township approved a rezoning to a planned designation, which grants a municipality, township, or county a great deal of discretion in imposing particular regulations on a proposed development. This is true whether the new zoning is a planned residential or planned commercial designation.

You seem to be saying that the approval ordinance (the name for a local law) specified that there be no impact on adjoining zoning districts in terms of smoke, noise, and those other things you mentioned. That would be a common type of provision to mention in an ordinance.

Then you seem to say that the proposed new planned development has not yet been constructed, but that you do not believe the development will be able to meet the provisions of the ordinance.

If so, you and your neighbors have no recourse now, unless you want to file a lawsuit and ask the court for an injunction (court order) that construction not commence until the lawsuit results are known.

However, if the development is already partially occupied and you find that indeed the businesses are leading to noise, vibration, glare, and so forth, then you should report each and every instance of this occurrence to your township as an alleged zoning violation.

We would suggest that you complain frequently, although politely, if you feel your township is not being responsive after at least part of the development is occupied. When you make the first complaint, ask about a typical time frame for when a zoning inspection can be completed, a citation issued if believed justified, and a judge hearing the case.

We aren't suggesting that you file exactly the same complaint over and over again, but we are saying that you should report new instances of the zoning violation whenever they occur, and not just assume that one complaint will solve everything.

Most code violation officials are stretched thin, so your eyes and ears can actually be helpful to township officials trying to understand the situation.

But do be reasonable with your township, as if they think that you or your neighbors are being distrustful and making a nuisance of yourselves, that would probably work against you and not for you.

Most governments want to enforce their own ordinances, so presume the best unless and until you discover a pattern of completely ignoring your complaints.

You may want to understand the code enforcement process well if you need to follow this route. Even though our page on the topic is written in terms of sets of laws other than zoning, the process typically is the same.

We should mention that if you disagree with an administrative decision of a zoning official (for example, the zoning officials says the development complies with the ordinance but you disagree), you may have the right to file with a zoning board of adjustment or similarly titled board. For more on this process, see our page on zoning variances, which follow the same process as an appeal of an administrative decision.

Just to summarize, then, you have two different possible situations:

1) Nothing has yet been built and occupied, but you think it is beyond belief that the proposed development will not violate its zoning.

In that case, your only options now are to file a lawsuit that you and neighbors would have to fund, or possibly persuade your township to reconsider the grant of zoning. The township probably would be very reluctant to do that, which is why we did not mention it earlier.

2) At least part of the planned development is now occupied and is not living up to the conditions specified as part of the approval ordinance. In this case, you will need to complain to the township about a zoning violation.

Good luck with this situation.

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