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A Better Partnership
September 25, 2017

MSC to consider whether county's authority to site buildings trumps township's zoning authority

The Michigan Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal the question of whether a county's use of a shooting range has priority over a township's ordinance in Coloma Charter Township v. Berrien County, No. 154556 and No. 154557.  This appeal derived from the discussion of whether a county’s authority under the county commissioner's act ("CCA") to “site” and “erect” buildings has priority over zoning ordinance of the township with respect to using open-air, three-sided structure within which the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department conducts firearms training for law enforcement officers.  After the county was enjoined from using outdoor shooting ranges for firearms training for law enforcement officers, the county passed a resolution allowing it to construct an open-air, pole-barn style structure consisting of a covered cement slab that was completely open on one side, facing the shooting ranges.  The circuit could concluded that the county’s authority under the CCA to site the county building trumped the township’s zoning and noise ordinances. 

The Court of Appeals reversed, holding that a county’s authority to “site” and “erect” buildings is limited to items specifically adapted to support the use of the buildings, such as parking lots, shrubs, and lighting.  Because shooting ranges are not a normal and indispensable use of county buildings, a shooting range does not qualify as an ancillary item under the CCA.

The Michigan Supreme Court has granted leave to appeal the following issues: 

(1) whether the gun range is given priority under the CCA over a conflicting township zoning ordinance;
(2) if so, whether the Court of Appeals erred by reversing the Berrien Circuit Court’s revision of the existing permanent injunction based on changed circumstances; and
(3) whether the Court of Appeals properly vacated the trial court’s decision to deny the plaintiffs’ request for attorney fees.

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