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I often am confused as to when the Township Board should act through a resolution or through an ordinance. Specifically, can a Township Board change an ordinance by adopting a resolution?

The confusion is understandable as the township board is often addressing resolutions and ordinances in the same meeting. For instance, the township board passes an ordinance adopting the municipal civil infraction system, but adopts a resolution setting the schedule of fees for the issuance of citations under that ordinance. Why?

The principle guiding whether to use a resolution or an ordinance lies in assessing the township's act itself. The ordinance creates a rule of law; it's permanent and more formal. It governs the conduct of the township. A resolution is less formal and directs temporary  or special acts to be completed. For example, the township adopts its zoning ordinance, which governs the conduct of land use in the township. The delegation of a zoning ordinance enforcement officer will be done with a resolution, as it is temporary, directed at a specific act of special concern that has no bearing on the general conduct of the township (and the residents residing within). 

Another rule of law arises when the township chooses to amend or repeal an ordinance or resolution, which is identified as the equal dignity doctrine. This simply means the township must change any act with an equal or more formal action. The township must amend or repeal an ordinance with another ordinance. A resolution would not be of equal dignity and thus could not be used. Likewise, a resolution can be amended or changed with another resolution. We do note that a resolution made during a meeting is a written motion. These can generally be treated equally.

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