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Rick Rassel and Rick Rattner Obtain Court of Appeals Win for Northern Michigan “Therapeutic Farm Community”

February 14, 2018

Richard Rassel, III, and Richard Rattner recently secured a significant appellate victory on behalf of a unique non-profit facility near Mullett Lake for adults with mental illness.

In April 2015, Heritage Cove Farm requested a special use permit and zoning approval from the Cheboygan County Planning Commission for a proposed a 33-acre “therapeutic farm community” where residents will receive therapeutic care and learn the necessary life, work, and coping skills for independent living. After multiple public hearings, the Commission approved the project in January 2016.

Subsequently, the Grandview Beach Association, a group of homeowners with properties adjoining the planned farm, filed suit in Cheboygan Circuit Court to overturn the Commission’s grant. After the circuit court affirmed the Commission’s decision, the Association took its case to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The Association raised various arguments on appeal including the Commission’s lack of statutory authority, the undue burden the facility would place on the public resources, and a lack of evidence to support the Commission’s decision. In response, Messrs. Rassel and Rattner emphasized Heritage Cove Farm’s mission, as well as the necessary and reasonable purpose of the facility under the American with Disabilities Act and the Fair Housing Act. The Court of Appeals agreed, affirming both the circuit court and the Commission.

“The Planning Commission’s decision was sound and well supported,” said Mr. Rassel. “We are pleased that both the Cheboygan Circuit Court and the Court of Appeals disregarded obvious ‘not in my backyard’ prejudices and stuck to the law.”

“Heritage Cove Farm will provide needed education and encouragement to people with developmental challenges,” added Mr. Rattner, “and we are honored to represent them as they work toward making this project a reality.”

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