Court cases on land use focused on medical marijuana and local zoning authority in 2012-13

Many of the 36 land use-related court cases in the past 12 months dealt with medical marijuana, local zoning authority and an assortment of other issues.

Court cases and legal opinions that focus on land use issues were dominated by medical marijuana, local zoning authority, issues during the past 12 months.

Medical marijuana cases largely focused on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, if the act pre-empts local ordinances and if the act is pre-empted by federal law (Ter Beek v. City of Wyoming [now pending on appeal before the Michigan Supreme Court]), physician’s statements needed before marijuana use (People v. King), registry identification cards (People v. Nicholson), can transfer medical marijuana between registered patients without compensation (People v. Green), cannot sell medical marijuana (State v. McQueen), and several more cases.

Zoning and local ordinance jurisdiction cases in the past year focused on fireworks regulation; medical marijuana; cell towers; nonferrous metallic mineral mining and mining generally; the Ambassador Bridge; septage waste servicers; food processing, commercial activity in agricultural zoning districts, composting/nutrient management plan, as well as non-commercial farm-like land uses in relationship to the Right to Farm Act.

Two cases focused on particularly offbeat issues. One was about Washitaw Moor land claims, which the court did not accept. People who consider themselves Washitaw Moor believe all land in the United States outside of the 13 colonies and Texas belong to the Nation of Washitaw. The defendant filed documents in a county Register of Deeds asserting this belief, resulting in clouded title for the current landowners. The suit was about committing fraud through recording in the Register of Deeds (People v. Johnson-El). The other was about the contention that an owner of patented land does not have to pay taxes. The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that this contention is untrue and that once patented land ownership is transferred it is part of the general mass of property in the state and subject to taxation (Barry County treasurer v. Klinge)

Every year Michigan State University Extension compiles land use (planning and zoning) court cases and attorney general opinions and summarizes them in a single document. This year’s summary of 36 cases and opinions are now available. This year’s summary and summaries from past years (from 2003 on) can be found at the Land Use Pamphlets webpage. This year’s copy is Summary of Planning and Zoning Court Decisions, 2013.

The  summary of court cases will be presented at the June 13, 2013 Citizen Planner Advanced Academy by Mark Wyckoff, FAICP, immediately following lunch. You can still register to attend the Advanced Academy. Wyckoff also builds on this summary for his legislative and court review done at the Michigan Association Conference, which will be held October 2-4, 2013 in Kalamazoo, Mich.

For regular updates on land use (planning and zoning)-related court cases, attorneys general opinions, legislation, research and training opportunities, MSU Extension provides an email list-serv for professional planners, zoning administrators, municipal attorneys, and others.

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