Zoning and Land Use


Honigman’s Zoning and Land Use Practice Group is widely recognized by developers and municipal officials as leaders in the field of zoning and land use planning. We assist with zoning compliance, variances, preparation of ordinances, drainage and runoff issues, wetlands regulation, and historic preservation issues. 

Our clients include major national developers involved in planning total communities or redevelopment of entire districts within major urban areas; small businesses seeking access or zoning authority; shopping center developers; restaurant chains; petroleum companies; office park developers; single-family subdividers; industrial developers; mobile home park developers; residential developers; and hotel developers. We also represent cities and other municipalities in zoning, land use and condemnation matters, as well as revisions to master plans and zoning ordinances.

Our services include: 

  • Pre-Acquisition Counseling – We advise clients prior to their land acquisition on potential zoning and land use regulatory issues possible in development. Land use regulations may create significant barriers to obtaining regulatory approvals and necessary financing. We review land use regulations, determine the impact on clients’ plans and provide counsel on whether they should acquire the land. During the acquisition process, we help shape the specific form of the development and the approach to the regulatory agencies. We can also assist clients in including protective provisions in their purchase agreements.
  • Approaching Municipalities and Regulatory Agencies – Honigman strives to work with municipalities and other regulatory agencies on a non-adversarial basis to obtain the approvals needed to accomplish a client’s objectives. Our working relationships with local officials help us achieve those objectives in a timely manner. When the approval process also involves working with neighborhood and citizens’ groups, we assist our clients with these efforts.
  • Structuring the Approval Process – We counsel our clients and help them structure and direct the approval process. When alternative approaches are possible, we advise on the best approach and work with municipal officials to pursue it. We are also able to work with local officials to expedite the approval process, when needed.
  • Litigation – Although litigation is not our automatic objective, we represent our clients in court to challenge local zoning regulations and decisions that adversely affect them. We coordinate experts, compile data, and stay up-to-date on relevant laws. Our litigation record includes several matters that resulted in important pro-property rights decisions that have substantially affected Michigan zoning law, including a key 1986 Michigan Supreme Court decision, Schwartz v. City of Flint, 426 Mich. 296; 395 N.W. 2d 678 (1986). Clients look to us when atypical or complex zoning, land use or condemnation issues need to be litigated.
  • Condemnation – Our attorneys have represented municipalities and private sector clients in a number of important condemnation matters. We acted as special counsel to the City of Detroit in connection with several major urban redevelopment projects involving the acquisition of numerous parcels of land.

Honigman's attorneys devote substantial portions of their practices to land use law and planning. They write and lecture extensively on zoning law and work on state zoning and other legislation relating to land use. Our attorneys are members of the Urban Land Institute, the American Planning Association, the American Society of Planning Officials, the Michigan Society of Planning Officials, the National Association of Home Builders, the Building Industry Association of Southeast Michigan, the National Association of Office and Industrial Parks, the International Council of Shopping Centers, the American Water Resource Association, the American Bar Association’s Land Use and Zoning Committee, and the State Bar of Michigan’s Zoning and Land Use Committee.

Representative Matters

  • Acted as special counsel to the City of Detroit for several major urban redevelopment projects, including the Poletown Project, which involved the acquisition of numerous land parcels and their assembly for development of a major General Motors Corporation facility and subsequent litigation, which resulted in an important Michigan Supreme Court decision that held that the acquisitions were taken under eminent domain for a public purpose; Poletown Neighborhood Council v. City of Detroit, 410 Mich. 616; 304 N.W.2d 455 (1981)
  • Worked with a suburban township, Auburn Hills, on behalf of a major developer to create a development plan, zoning, tax incentives and fiscal mechanisms that resulted in the incorporation of the township as a city and the development of the Oakland Technology Park, the keystone of Southeast Michigan’s entry into the high-tech industry
  • Drafted legislation enacted by the Michigan Legislature that became a substantial factor in development incentive packages provided by the State of Michigan
  • Represented the City of Auburn Hills and defeated the challenge when a legal challenge attacked the validity of the tax abatement portion of the development of a Michigan law
  • Advised the City of St. Clair Shores, Michigan on land acquisitions for its lakefront development, assisting with re-drafting the city’s master plan and zoning ordinance, prepared a lakefront development plan and assisted the city with creating the mechanisms for tax increment financing and other devices to promote the development
  • Obtained a 1988 advisory opinion that upheld the validity of tax increment financing in representing St. Clair Shores before the Supreme Court of Michigan
  • Worked with Battle Creek Township and the City of Battle Creek, on behalf of a developer, to create the zoning, tax incentive and fiscal mechanisms that facilitated the development of a major regional shopping center that helped revitalize the city’s downtown
  • Assisted with Battle Creek Township, the City of Battle Creek and a citizen’s group in a merger campaign that resulted in voter approval of the merger of Battle Creek Township into the City of Battle Creek

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