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One Court of Justice Blog

October 25, 2013

The Right to Farm Act does not exempt farmers from permit restrictions on driveways

 In Sena Scholma Trust v. Ottawa County Road Commission, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the Road Commission properly denied a driveway permit, and further held that the Right to Farm Act was not implicated by the permit denial.

In the spring, the water levels on the Plaintiffs’ farm render part of its property inaccessible from the existing driveway.  Plaintiffs submitted a permit application to the County Road Commission to create a driveway that would allow spring access.  The Commission denied the permit application.  Plaintiffs sued, claiming, among other things, that the permit denial violated the Driveways, Banners, Events and Parades Act (the “Driveway Act”) and the Right to Farm Act (the “RTFA”).  The trial court agreed that denial of the permit impaired Morren’s ability to farm the land and thus was improper.  The Court of Appeals reversed and remanded with instructions to enter judgment in favor of the Commission.

In reviewing plaintiffs’ Driveway Act claims, the Court recognized that the standard governing review of a road-commission decision was highly deferential, and would be upheld unless it lacked any “reasoned basis or evidentiary support.”  The Court concluded that the Commission’s decision was supported by ample evidence establishing that the proposed driveway would create spacing issues and other conflicts within the area it was to be built.  The Court reasoned that the Commission’s conclusion was also consistent with its rule that driveways be located to maintain free movement of traffic and to provide required site distance.

The RTFA exempts farms and farm operations from certain “ordinance[s], regulations, or resolutions.”  But here, the Court concluded that the Commission’s permit denial was not an “ordinance, regulation, or resolution.”  Accordingly, the RTFA was not implicated in the Commission’s action.

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