blog, articles & publications

The Court of Appeals decides a township zoning board of appeals case by according great deference to the municipality.

On January 21, 2020, the Michigan Court of Appeals issued an unpublished decision in Nixon v Webster Township (Case No. 343505; 2020 WL 359625) involving the Webster Township Zoning Board of Appeals (the “ZBA”).  The ZBA interpreted the Webster Township Zoning Ordinance and concluded that wedding barns are not included within the definition of “Seasonal Agri-Tourism” pursuant to the Webster Township Zoning Ordinance.  On appeal, the Washtenaw County Circuit Court reversed the ZBA’s decision and held in favor of the property owner.  The Court of Appeals later reinstated the ZBA’s decision.  The Court of Appeals reiterated that courts must show great deference to a decision by a municipal zoning board of appeals and other municipal zoning bodies.  The trial court below did not accord the appropriate deference to the ZBA’s expertise and knowledge of local matters.    Read More

THE MICHIGAN LAKES & STREAMS ASSOCIATION, INC. ANNUAL CONVENTION – 2020

Cliff Bloom will be teaching seminars on May 1 and 2, 2020 at the annual Michigan Lakes & Streams Association Convention at Crystal Mountain in Northern Michigan. The topics will include water/riparian law, buying and selling waterfront property, local government regulation of the waterfront, easements and similar issues.  Read More

How Can Municipalities in Michigan Deal with High Water Levels?

During 2019, many municipalities throughout Michigan, both on the Great Lakes and involving inland lakes, experienced severe high water problems. Those problems include shoreline erosion and degradation, flooded basements, interference with municipal water and sewer systems, overflowing retention and detention basins, closed roads, crumbling infrastructure and many other water challenges. For the Great Lakes, the United States Army Corps of Engineers believes that water levels in Lake Michigan and Lake Huron may be from 10 to 20 inches higher during the summer of 2020 than in 2019. That may spell disaster for a number of Michigan communities.   Read More

Easement and Gate Decision

In Smith v. Straughn, ___ Mich App ___ (2020), decided on January 28, 2020 (Case No. 345391; 2020 WL 448304), the Michigan Court of Appeals has modified slightly the long-standing precedent that it is impermissible to install a gate across an easement except where such a right has been specifically reserved in the easement language. See, Cantieny v. Friebe, 341 Mich 143; 67 NW2d 102 (1954). The Straughn case holds that unless the plain language of the easement unambiguously forbids a non-obstructive gate, such gates may be permitted if reasonable under the circumstances. Here, the Court held that because the gate was not locked and its installation was not motivated by the goal of excluding the easement beneficiary, it was permitted.  Read More

New Attorneys at Bloom Sluggett, PC

Bloom Sluggett, PC recently welcomed Amy Jonker as the firm’s chief litigator. Amy specializes in municipal litigation, property tax appeals and water rights/riparian litigation. Amy graduated from the DePaul University College of Law in 2004.  Read More

Top Lawyer Honors for Bloom & Sluggett

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2020 Best Law Firm Honors


Bloom Sluggett, P.C. is pleased to announce that we have been selected as a "2020 Best Law Firm" by U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers. This is the fifth time that our firm has been recognized.

Best Law Firm honors are given to recipients that undergo a rigorous evaluation process, including client and lawyer evaluations, and peer review from leading attorneys in the field. We have been recognized for our municipal law work in the Grand Rapids, MI metropolitan area. We would like to thank our clients and peers for their appreciation and support of the work we've been doing in our community.


 This firm honor follows the recent announcement of Jeff Sluggett's individual "Best Lawyers in America" award, which was given for his work in the field of municipal law. This is the fourth time Jeff has been recognized as a Best Lawyer; in 2019 he received “Lawyer of the Year” honors, also by Best Lawyers.

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JEFF SLUGGETT RECEIVES 2020 "BEST LAWYERS IN AMERICA" HONORS


We're pleased to announce that Jeff Sluggett has been selected by his peers for inclusion in "The Best Lawyers™ in America 2020” for his work in the area of Municipal Law.


This is the fourth time Jeff has been recognized as a Best Lawyer; in 2019 he received “Lawyer of the Year” honors, also by Best Lawyers.

Best Lawyers is a peer-review group, first published in 1983. The group recognizes outstanding lawyers, from more than 70 practice areas, who have attained a high-degree of peer recognition and professional achievement. Each selection process is multi-phased and includes independent research, peer nominations and peer evaluations. Congratulations, Jeff, on a well deserved honor!  Read More

Michigan Court of Appeals Upholds Zoning Escrow Fee Policy

In Forner v Allendale Charter Township Supervisor, an unpublished decision decided on March 21, 2019 (Case No. 339072, 2019 WL 1302094), the Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the application of Allendale Charter Township’s zoning escrow fee policy pursuant to a zoning board of appeals case.  The township required the plaintiff to pay a $1,500 zoning escrow fee pursuant to an appeal to the township’s zoning board of appeals.  The plaintiff alleged that the township lacked statutory authority to charge the fee.  Both the district court and the circuit court held that the township had the right to charge a zoning escrow fee pursuant to MCL 125.3406(1) because plaintiff’s request related to a legal question regarding land use.  The Court of Appeals determined that MCL 125.3406(1) applies only to zoning permits and does not authorize a zoning escrow fee for appeals to the administrative zoning board of appeals.  However, the Court of Appeals upheld the zoning escrow fee for the appeal to the zoning board of appeals based on the jurisdiction of the township’s zoning board of appeals pursuant to MCL 125.3603 and the Allendale Charter Township Zoning Ordinance, which provides that fees may be charged for an appeal to the zoning board of appeals.  The Court held that township ordinance authority is to be broadly construed.  Furthermore, the township had in place a resolution which both authorized fixed fees and also variable zoning escrow amounts.  The Court noted that the zoning escrow fees in the case were only used to reimburse the township for actual costs incurred for the services necessarily incurred by the township for the zoning board of appeals to carry out its duties.    Read More

Important Michigan Court of Appeals Decision regarding Zoning Site Plan Appeals to Circuit Court

In Woodcreek of Ann Arbor Association, et al. v City of Ann Arbor, et al., unpublished decision dated March 12, 2019 (Case No. 342848; 2019 WL 1140261), the City of Ann Arbor approved a site plan to allow a developer to develop a condominium complex.  Neighboring property owners and a nearby property owners association filed a lawsuit in the Washtenaw County Circuit Court to overturn the zoning approval.  The circuit court dismissed the neighbors’ lawsuit as untimely, which decision was upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals.    Read More