For Immediate Release
March 5, 2003
Contact Donna Halinski (517) 372-4400

Oakland County Judge Rules That Township Acted Unconstitutionally

Pontiac, MI -- Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Fred Mester ruled today that Lyon Township's zoning ordinance, under which the Township attached conditions to Continental Aluminum's right to restore its building to pre-existing status following a fire, is unconstitutional. Continental filed a lawsuit challenging the conditions. Judge Mester's ruling confirmed that Continental had a reasonable basis to restore its building absent compliance with the unconstitutional conditions.

In his ruling, Judge Mester said that the township's zoning ordinance fails to accord with the constitutional guarantee of due process of law. The judge further ruled that the Lyon Township Board of Zoning Appeals had no authority to attach conditions to Continental's right to restore its property to its pre-existing status.

"Continental Aluminum vindicates Judge Mester's ruling that we are acting according to the law," said company president Bill Altgilbers. "We will continue to work hard to be productive and operate our plant in a safe manner. Our goal has always been to be a good standing member of the community."

On September 30, the Lyon Township Board of Zoning Appeals granted Continental a variance to rebuild its facilities with conditions. According to the conditions, the Board of Zoning Appeals claimed that it had the sweeping authority to determine whether to terminate Continental's "grandfathered" status absent any standards or guidelines. There is no state law that authorizes the Board of Zoning Appeals to exercise such authority.

Continental suspended normal business operations August 16 following an accidental fire. The company resumed production November 14. The township filed a temporary restraining order against Continental restoring its building absent the challenged conditions and was denied December 2 by Judge Mester. The judge ruled that the township failed to show that Continental Aluminum would pose any irreparable harm by continuing operations absent compliance with the conditions that the judge has now ruled are unconstitutional.

Today's ruling does not settle the entire case. There are still pending issues concerning possible damages incurred by Continental Aluminum as a result of the township's action.