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Charter Township of Lyon v. Petty

Court of Appeals of Michigan

October 13, 2016

CHARTER TOWNSHIP OF LYON, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
JAMES E. PETTY, JUDITH PETTY, JAMES PETTY, JR., and PETTY TRUCKING, Defendants-Appellants. CHARTER TOWNSHIP OF LYON, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
MARLENE HOSKINS and PAUL HOSKINS LANDSCAPING, INC., Defendants-Appellants.

         Oakland Circuit Court LC Nos. 2014-141058-CE, 2014-141059-CE

          Before: Fort Hood, P.J., and Gleicher and O'Brien, JJ.

          PER CURIAM.

         The Petty and Hoskins families each own property in Lyon Township, which they use as their primary residences and the sites of their family-owned business operations. Their commercial uses have violated the township's zoning ordinance since they opened shop. As the residential neighborhood developed around them, these uses became problematic and the township enforced its ordinance by ordering a stop to the business activities. The circuit court, faced with competing summary disposition motions, upheld the township's zoning authority. We affirm.

         I. BACKGROUND

         The Petty and Hoskins families each own acreage on Belladonna Road in Lyon Township. The land has been zoned R-1.0 Residential Agricultural since 1957. The Hoskins family purchased their five-acre lot in 1969. The land was vacant and they quickly constructed a single-family residence. In 1970, the Hoskins family erected a 30 foot by 50 foot pole barn valued at $3, 300. Their building permit application indicated: "Building to be used for storage." In 2012 and 2013, the Hoskins family built additions to the pole barn, each valued at $3, 500. The Hoskins family asserts that they have always used the pole barn to store equipment and material for their landscaping business: Hoskins Landscaping, formerly known as Paul Hoskins Landscaping.

         The Petty family bought a 13-acre lot neighboring the Hoskins family in 1977. The previous owners ran Nunday Trenching and Power Washing Company from the property and stored trucks and commercial equipment on site. The Petty family currently operates a truck storage facility on the land-Petty Trucking-and also stores materials such as brick pavers. They have conducted other commercial enterprises in the past. Although James Petty contends that his family has made "significant investments" and "improvements to the business, " he provided no further detail in connection with this lawsuit.

         It is undisputed that the Hoskins and Petty families operated their businesses without township interference for several decades despite that their uses were never permitted under their zoning classification. Defendants claim that township officials have visited their property several times over the years and never raised any concerns. Moreover, each presented commercial personal property tax bills connected with their Belladonna addresses. In the early days, other property owners on Belladonna Road put their land to similar uses. It is also undisputed, however, that the neighborhood's character has changed over time. Satellite images reveal that a large residential subdivision now runs along the properties' western borders. On Belladonna Road, simple farm houses have given way to modern homes of vast square footage on large lots. It appears that Hoskins Landscaping and Petty Trucking are the last local vestiges of the rural era.

         Neighbors began complaining about noise and early morning activity at the landscaping and truck storage businesses. On October 14, 2013, the township sent identical "township zoning ordinance warning[s]" to Marlene Hoskins and James Petty. The township advised defendants that their business uses were not permitted in a residential zoning district and defendants had been in violation of the ordinance since the inception of their commercial enterprises. The notices continued, "Although portions of your business activities have existed for years, the Township would like to meet with you to discuss options available to bring your property into compliance with the zoning ordinance." Ultimately, the township sought judicial intervention to force the Hoskins and Petty families to cease their business operations in their current locations. Defendants filed a joint motion for summary disposition contemporaneous with their answers and the township responded with a summary disposition motion of its own. The circuit court agreed with the township's position and ordered the Petties' and Hoskinses' compliance with the zoning restrictions on their land. The Petties and Hoskinses now appeal.

         II. STANDARD OF REVIEW

         We review de novo a circuit court's grant of summary disposition. Zaher v Miotke, 300 Mich.App. 132, 139; 832 N.W.2d 266 (2013).

A motion under MCR 2.116(C)(10) "tests the factual support of a plaintiff's claim." Walsh v Taylor, 263 Mich.App. 618, 621; 689 N.W.2d 506 (2004). "Summary disposition is appropriate . . . if there is no genuine issue regarding any material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." West v Gen Motors Corp, 469 Mich. 177, 183; 665 N.W.2d 468 (2003). "In reviewing a motion under MCR 2.116(C)(10), this Court considers the pleadings, admissions, affidavits, and other relevant documentary evidence of record in the light most favorable to the nonmoving party to determine whether any genuine issue of material fact exists to warrant a trial." Walsh, 263 Mich.App. at 621. "A genuine issue of material fact exists when the record, giving the benefit of reasonable doubt to the opposing party, leaves open an issue upon which reasonable minds might differ." West, 469 Mich. at 183. [Zaher, 300 Mich.App. at 139-140.]

         We review de novo the applicability and merit of the equitable defenses raised by the Hoskins and Petty families. See Mason v City of Menominee, 28 ...


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