Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance v. Saugatuck Twp. (Opinion on Application - Remand to TC)

Annotate this Case
Justia Opinion Summary

Appellant Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance, argued that lower courts erred when they found that the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) denied it standing to appeal the decisions of the Saugatuck Township Planning Commission (Commission). Prior Court of Appeals decisions relied on by the Saugatuck Township Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) and lower courts repeatedly and erroneously read the term “party aggrieved” too narrowly. The Michigan Supreme Court held that the MZEA did not require an appealing party to own real property and to demonstrate special damages only by comparison to other real-property owners similarly situated. The Supreme Court overruled several Court of Appeals decisions to the limited extent that they required: (1) real-property ownership as a prerequisite to being “aggrieved” by a zoning decision under the MZEA; and (2) special damages to be shown only by comparison to other real-property owners similarly situated. The Supreme Court explained, to be a “party aggrieved” under MCL 125.3605 and MCL 125.3606, the appellant must meet three criteria: (1) the appellant must have participated in the challenged proceedings by taking a position on the contested proposal or decision; (2) the appellant must claim some protected interest or protected personal, pecuniary, or property right that will be or is likely to be affected by the challenged decision; and (3) the appellant must provide some evidence of special damages arising from the challenged decision in the form of an actual or likely injury to or burden on their asserted interest or right that is different in kind or more significant in degree than the effects on others in the local community. A portion of the Court of Appeals' judgment was vacated, and the case was remanded back to the circuit court for reconsideration in light of the Supreme Court's holding here.