What's Bugging You Mid-Michigan? Clinton County Family Forced to Tear Down Pole Barn

What's bugging you Mid-Michigan? The construction of a pole barn is at the center of a dispute in Clinton County. The Moreno family tells us they got the green light from the county to put up the pole barn in their yard, only to be told later to stop the construction. But this is after they already spent thousands of dollars on the project. Their barn was half built when the county said they had to stop construction. The county apologized for missing a zoning ordinance, but the family says "I'm sorry" isn't good enough.

"We already had some of it removed, and now we have to have the yard put back," said Shannon Moreno.

The Morenos first got the project approved through their subdivision. They then hired a builder, who was issued a building permit from Clinton County. The county's building inspector visited the site and approved the footings, but days later he family was told they couldn't continue building in that spot.

"After he told the contractor to stop the contractor asked him... well, you've approved this already. He said 'I missed it, I'm sorry.' That's all he could say," said Shannon Moreno.

The Building Inspector missed a county zoning ordinance that says structures like this must at least 40 feet from the road. The Moreno's barn was only set-back 9 feet. They requested a variance but were denied, and the structure had to come down.

"I entrusted these people to do their job. I paid money to have this project done, and they made a mistake, and in the end, I'm out all this money. And still all I can say is I'm sorry," said Manuel Moreno.

They're out the $5,000 they paid their builder, and it'll cost another $2500 to repair their yard. I spoke with Clinton County's Executive Planner off-camera. He told me these issues are dealt with exclusively by the Zoning Board of Appeals, and the board decided not to grant a variance. The county does not plan to compensate the family, and the zoning expert I spoke with says, they have a good defense.

"Obviously, if the community issued the building permit. The property owner could say that it's valid. The community could say, wait a second, it's not valid if it doesn't comply with the ordinance," said Gerald Fisher, a Professor at Cooley Law School.

Even though the building inspector made a mistake, and that's why the permit didn't comply, municipalities have the right to go back on decisions in the state of Michigan. A doctrine protects local governments in most cases like this. but not in all cases. The attorney i spoke with said the Morneo family's losses are great enough that, if the case went to court, they could win and receive compensation. But, the family told me they were hoping to deal with this issue without hiring a lawyer and going to court. It looks like that's not going to happen. the county has made their decision.

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