Haider A. Kazim, an attorney in our Traverse City office, recently won a case in the Michigan Court of Appeals. In this case, the Court of Appeals in a precedent setting decision ruled that a municipality lacks standing to sue on behalf of its residents. The case involved an appeal of a decision of a local county zoning board of appeals to the County Circuit Court by the township.
At circuit court, the township argued that it had a duty to protect the water quality of its lakes on behalf of its residents, and that the decision of the zoning board of appeal would negatively impact water quality. The respondent argued that the township lacked standing to appeal a decision of the zoning board of appeal since it did not suffer an injury distinct from the general public. The circuit court agreed with the zoning board of appeals, and dismissed the township’s appeal.
The Court of Appeals granted the township’s application for leave to appeal, and in a published opinion, affirming the decision of the trial court. The appellate opinion acknowledged that the issue of whether a municipality can sue on behalf of its residents is a matter of first impression in the state. The court held that a municipality cannot sue on behalf of its residents, and must show that it, and not merely certain residents, is detrimentally affected by respondent’s decision in a manner distinct from the interest of the general public. The court ruled that the township’s purported interest in the lake to protect the health, safety and welfare of its citizens from water pollution and its effects is not distinct from those of the general public. The township was required to show a concrete and particularized injury specific to it in order to obtain standing.