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Curses! Foiled by Master Plan
by Ron Davis

A Michigan developer may as well scratch plans for a retail shopping complex in Grand Rapids—at least for the site selected.

Blame the opposition of local city officials for the shattered plans. They have fought the developer in the state’s courts for nearly eight years to prevent construction of the complex and instead allow the site to become an office complex.

That site is currently zoned single-family residential. So the developer had applied to the city for a zoning change to suburban neighborhood commercial. But following a public hearing, the city’s planning commission recommended to the city council to deny the change.

City council agreed with the planning commission, pointing out that since 1990, a land-use master plan had designated the site in question for future office construction. In response, the developer explained that its plans called for office space as well as retail shopping space.

City council nevertheless refused to grant the developer permission to build. The developer therefore sued the city, alleging that city council had “arbitrarily, capriciously and without substantial or material basis” denied his application to use the site for the developer’s commercial purposes. The developer asked the courts for “compensation for inverse condemnation.”

A Michigan appellate court, in ruling in favor of city officials, explained, “All that is alleged, which city council readily acknowledges, is that the planning commission acted…to better comply with the master plan. That certainly does not evidence any bad faith on the part of the commission members. Neither does their action in recommending an office-use classification for the property rather than the suburban neighborhood commercial classification sought by the developer.”

Added the judges, “The developer has simply come forward with no argument by which we could conclude that the motivation or thought processes of the planning commission members in making their recommendation might be relevant or might reasonably be calculated to lead to the discovery of any relevant evidence.” (Pythagorean, Inc. v. Grand Rapids Twp., 656 N.W.2d 212 [Mich.App. 2002])

Decision: November 2002
Published: February 2003



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