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Mazzola v. Deeplands Development Company LLC

Court of Appeals of Michigan

July 25, 2019

THOMAS MAZZOLA, KATHRYN MAZZOLA, EDWARD SCHERVISH, RHONDA SCHERVISH, LILLIAN KACHADOURIAN, BEHROUZ OSKUI, ANTHONY SAID, ARISTIDIS THANASAS, PANAGIOTA THANASAS, PETER MACUGA, LISA MACUGA, GREGORY AHEE, ELIZABETH AHEE, BENJAMIN BEST, LYNNE BEST, and BHARANI YERRAMALLI, Plaintiffs-Appellants,
v.
DEEPLANDS DEVELOPMENT COMPANY LLC, Defendant-Appellee.

          Wayne Circuit Court LC No. 17-017617-CH

          Before: Gadola, P.J., and Boonstra and Swartzle, JJ.

          SWARTZLE, J.

         Restrictive covenants and negative reciprocal easements on real property implicate two fundamental freedoms-the freedom to contract and the freedom to use property. When an owner voluntarily agrees to restrict a particular use of real property, the owner need not, at the same time, also reserve all of the other, lawful uses of the property. The freedom to use real property is the baseline, and it is the restriction of that freedom through covenants and easements that must be made with clarity and particularity.

         In this action, plaintiffs seek to impose a restrictive covenant or reciprocal negative easement on their neighbor's real property to prevent the development of a cul-de-sac and 18 residential buildings. Because the neighbor's proposed development plan does not run afoul of the actual restrictive covenants and there is no basis to impose a reciprocal negative easement, we affirm the trial court's grant of summary disposition to the neighbor.

         I. BACKGROUND

         Plaintiffs reside in the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores in subdivisions known as Deeplands Subdivision One (Subdivision 1) and Deeplands Subdivision Two (Subdivision 2). In the early 1950s, the land now occupied by the two subdivisions and the land at issue in this appeal (the subject property)-a 7.83-acre parcel of land located at 55 South Deeplands Road- were owned by common owners. In 1953, the owners chose to divide their property and create the subdivisions, and in so doing, the owners subjected the subdivisions to specific deed restrictions outlined in two formal declarations. With respect to Subdivision 1, the declarations provide:

         II A - Building Sites

1. Definition and Minimum Sizes - Nothing contained herein shall be construed as to prevent any owner of property from erecting a permitted type of residential building on a site consisting of one full platted lot, plus all or any fraction of adjacent lots in the Grantors, without reference to the platted lot lines other than to observe the building line requirements set forth in section III C hereof. The minimum size of building sites shall be, for each lot, the lot as shown on said plat except that in no case shall any site have smaller frontage on a street than one hundred (100) ft.

         Subdivision 2 is subject to a similar, albeit more specific requirement:

II A - Building Sites - Definition and Minimum Sizes
Nothing contained herein shall be so construed as to prevent any owner of property from erecting a permitted type of residential building on a site consisting of one full platted lot, plus all or any fraction of adjacent lots in this subdivision and other adjacent subdivisions of the Grantor, without reference to the platted lot lines other than to observe the building line requirements set forth in Section III C hereof. The minimum size of building sites shall be, for each lot, the lot as shown on said plat except that in no case shall any site have smaller frontage on a street then as follows:
1) On South Deeplands Road - 100 ft.
2) On North Deeplands Road and on the west side of Ballantyne Road - 80 ft., providing 80 ft. sites become permissible under the Zoning Ordinance.

         Not all of the original lots in Subdivision 2 have building frontage on South Deeplands Road, North Deeplands Road, or Ballantyne ...


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