WASHTENAW COUNTY, MI – A panel of Michigan Court of Appeals judges overturned a lower court decision that dealt a blow to developers’ plans for a proposed nearly 500-unit mobile home park on nearly 140 acres north of Ann Arbor.
A Washtenaw County judge erred when he ruled that a 47-year-old court order allowing a mobile home development on land that skirts both sides of US 23 north of Warren Road was unenforceable. as officials argued in Ann Arbor Township, the appeals court ruled. .
While the legal battle over the project is far from over, the opinion issued on December 22 gives some rights to property owners JA Bloch and Co. and developers associated with Sun Communities, Inc. communities in the nation.
Alan Greene, an attorney representing the developers, did not respond to a call and email for comment on Wednesday, Dec. 28. Attorney Tom Meagher, representing the township, declined to comment, saying he Time needed to confer with his clients on the appeal. Court decision issued just before Christmas.
Read more: Developers are moving ahead with a large mobile home park near Ann Arbor amid a legal challenge
The property on mostly agricultural land north of M-14, about a mile outside Ann Arbor city limits, is no stranger to litigation.
In the 1970s, the predecessors of the current property owners sued Ann Arbor Township over zoning, eventually winning the right to develop it as a mobile home park through a 1975 court ruling. About 80 acres of the property was rezoned for the project in the 1980s, but it ultimately did not proceed, according to the recent court opinion.
Nevertheless, the updates of the municipal master plan in 2008 and 2015 stated that the municipality “will allow the mobile home park to develop as directed by the court’s decision”, referring to the 1975 ruling.
“The municipality did not want a mobile home park in 1975, and it does not want a mobile home park now, but it has been expressly planned for one on the plaintiff’s property for 45 years,” the appeals court judges said in the recent wrote. Opinion, citing the master plans.
In 2020, developers tested that theory, taking plans for their proposed 499-unit project, called the Arbor Oaks Manufactured Home Park, to the city.
But, the appeals court opinion says, the municipality refused to consider the site plan, the developer said that a rezoning was necessary first, while they claimed that the 1975 court order allowed for the development of the mobile home park on the property was no longer valid.
In February 2021, the developers took the township to court over the issue, also filing a complaint that 2020 versions of the township’s ordinances violate procedures for approving mobile home parks set forth in state law — part of a long-term pattern of discrimination against mobile homes. Parks of the municipality, they claim.
The village of Barton Hills and Barton Hills Maintenance Corp intervened in the process, said their municipal water supply from an aquifer under the proposed mobile home park that could be affected by developer plans.
Local officials won an initial victory when Washtenaw County Circuit Court Judge Carol Kuhnke sided with the municipality in an October 2021 ruling, but the developers quickly appealed.
The panel of three judges of the appeals court – Douglas Shapiro, Stephen Borrello and Christopher Yates – while hearing the oral arguments on December 7, appeared sympathetic to the arguments of the owner and the developers.
Borrello challenged Meagher, the attorney for the township, about the decision by local officials to declare the 1975 court ruling invalid. “If it’s a government entity that decides unilaterally, we’re not going to follow this ruling, that worries me a lot,” Borrello said.
Officials could have proactively tried to change or overturn the verdict, he added.
“Your clients simply have to go to court, which they ended up doing, but not because they wanted to, and that’s why I’m concerned. I am deeply disturbed by this because this is a flaunting of the entire legal system,” said Borrello.
The judgment of the Court of Appeal does not end the legal back and forth between developers and the municipality.
The opinion overturns the lower court’s decision to grant summary disposition to the municipality, affirms its decision to intervene in Barton Hills and sends the case back to Washtenaw County Court for further proceedings.
There are also outstanding zoning issues affecting the future of the mobile parking proposal.
While the case was under appeal, the developers tried to move forward with their project on just part of the land in question. But district officials rejected a rezoning request, instead approved a measure initiated by the municipal board to change some of the property to a less-dense residential zone classification.
Read more: ‘It never made sense’: Rezoning advances, blow to mobile home park plans near Ann Arbor
Township documents explaining the rationale for that change cite, among other factors, the Washtenaw County court decision that has now been overturned, and Greene previously said the developers would resolve the issue if necessary.
As of Thursday December 29, there was no court date scheduled for further proceedings.
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