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Can the Township Board remove the Zoning Board of Appeals' authority to grant use variances?

Yes. The Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) is a body described in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act. The ZBA’s powers are described in the Zoning Act and the Township’s ordinance. MCL 125.3601(1). The ZBA is empowered by statute with the “authority to grant nonuse variances.” MCL 125.3604(8). Use variances, however, can only be granted by a township ZBA that acts under an ordinance passed prior to February 15, 2006 and contains the word “use variance” or “variances from uses of land.” If these terms exist in the zoning ordinance and it was adopted prior to February 15, 2006, the authority to grant a use variance may exist. But even so, MCL 125.3604(11) grants the Township the authority to strip the ZBA of granting use variances by amending the zoning ordinance provisions. This ability to limit the ZBA to nonuse variances has been noted in court decisions. See Muslim Community Ass’n of Ann Arbor v Pittsfield Charter Twp, unpublished opinion of the Eastern District of Michigan, issued March 20, 2015 (Docket No. 12-CV-10803) (2015 WL 1286813).

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