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September 20, 2013

COA holds local zoning ordinances can regulate the sale of alcohol in gas stations.

Some townships think that people should not be able to buy gasoline and gin in the same place.  In  Maple BPA, Inc. v. Charter Township of Bloomfield, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that those townships may stop such sales through zoning ordinances.  The court rejected arguments that Bloomfield Township's ordinance banning the sale of alcoholic beverages at gas stations violated the Zoning Enabling Act, was pre-empted by State law and unconstitutional.

The plaintiff gas station company sue the Township after its liquor license was denied because its establishment did not comport with zoning.  The Township passed a resolution that it did not want to allow gas stations to sell alcohol and first regulated, then passed an outright ban on such sales.   The gas station alleged that the ordinance was pre-empted by more permissive state law, violates the Zoning Enabling Act, MCL 125.3101, and violated its rights to due process and equal protection.  The trial court disagreed and granted the Township's motion for summary disposition.  The appellate court affirmed.

The court of appeals held that the ordinance did not violate the Zoning Enabling Act because the ordinance applies uniformly to all gas stations.  In addition, the court held that State liquor licensing law did not give the State Liquor Control Commission exclusive control over the sale of alcoholic beverages, particularly because the Code expressly provides that a license will be denied if it would violate local zoning ordinances.  The court also found no conflict between state law and the ordinance.  Finally, the court also found the gas station failed to raise an issue of material fact that the ordinance would not further its stated purpose of health and welfare, blocking both constitutional claims.

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