Rezoning by Amendment as an Administrative or Quasi-Judicial Act: The “New Look” in Michigan Zoning

The traditional view in zoning law has been that the enactment of an original zoning ordinance and any amendments thereto by a local governing body is a “legislative” act, as contrasted with the granting of a “special exception” or a “variance” by the zoning board of appeals (or board of adjustment), which is an “administrative” or “quasi-judicial” act. Recently, however, the Oregon and Washington supreme courts have challenged this view, concluding that, under some circumstances at least, the enactment of a zoning amendment should be considered an “administrative” or “quasi-judicial” act, and thus subject to more extensive judicial review. Although a majority of the Michigan supreme court has yet to embrace this new position, the Michigan court has been moving in that direction; in fact, five recent opinions by Michigan Supreme Court Justice Levin indicate that Michigan may be extending the “administrative or quasi-judicial act” doctrine even beyond its Washington and Oregon formulations.