The typical zoning ordinance is written in such a way as to encourage different kinds of developments to follow a one-size-fits-all approach. Realizing this problem, the Michigan legislature allowed for more variety and flexibility in zoning. Today, developers can take advantage of the Planned Unit Development. These developments are typically referred to as PUDs.
MCL 125.3503 is the controlling PUD statute. There are several aspects of flexibility in PUDs. First, PUDs allow for mixed uses in a single development. Second, PUDs allow parcels to be integrated into existing natural features, such as rivers or wetlands, without having to adhere to cookie-cutter parcel maps. While most PUDs are primarily residential, some developments incorporate commercial and residential uses. Even office, industrial, or medical uses can be part of a PUD. Further, PUDs allow for irregularly shaped or sized parcels.
There are two options for municipalities to process PUD requests. The local zoning ordinance should state which option your municipality has chosen. One option is to handle the PUD like a zoning ordinance amendment. In this scenario, the PUD application is processed like a legislative decision, and the legislative body makes the final approval. The legislative body would be the township board, city council, or village council. The zoning ordinance must also specify: any conditions for eligibility, who should participate in the review process, the standards for review, and the procedures for application and review.
An alternative option is to handle PUD requests like special use permit applications. This converts PUDs from legislative decisions to administrative actions. In this scenario, the final decision is made by the planning commission and/or the zoning staff. Many consider this to be the preferable method of handling PUDs since the decision is in the hands of trained planners. The ordinance must specify: the conditions for eligibility, participants in the review process, standards of approval, procedures for application, review & approval, and who the final decision rests with.
In sum, PUDs are versatile tools for developers and municipalities to work together for creative land use projects. The procedure and requirements for approval will be specific to each zoning ordinance. Developers should contact an experienced land use attorney for assistance in obtaining approval for a PUD.
The attorneys at Dalton & Tomich, PLC specialize in land use and zoning issues. If are interested in applying for a PUD in Michigan, please do not hesitate to contact us. We would be happy to speak with you.