In Saugatuck Dunes Coastal Alliance v Saugatuck Township (Case No. 160358-9), decided on July 22, 2022, the Michigan Supreme Court clarified when an aggrieved person or party can appeal a decision by a municipal zoning board of appeals to a county circuit court. The “aggrieved” person or party standard is similar to “standing” for a party to be able to file a lawsuit, but the test for each is not identical. The Supreme Court partially overturned prior Court of Appeals precedent in Olsen v Chikaming Twp, 325 Mich App 170; 924 NW2d 889 (2018), 1v den sub nom, Olsen v Jude & Reed LLC, 503 Mich 1018 (2019), Joseph v Grand Blanc Twp, 5 Mich App 566; 147 NW2d 458 (1967) and related decisions, but left portions of those decisions intact. In general, this decision makes it easier for neighboring property owners and members of the public to appeal what they consider to be adverse decisions by a municipal zoning board of appeals to a circuit court.
The Supreme Court reiterated its earlier standing decision in Lansing School Education Association v Lansing Board of Education, 487 Mich 349 (2010). It also held that in order for a person or party to be “aggrieved,” three factors must be present as follows:
- First, the appellant must have participated in the challenged proceedings by taking a position on the contested decision, such as through a letter or oral public comment.
- Second, the appellant must claim some legally protected interest or protected personal, pecuniary, or property right that is likely to be affected by the challenged decision.
- Third, 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.
This decision may represent a subtle shift in the test for challenging a municipal zoning board of appeals decision.