Can the Township enter into a contract to sell public property?

  1. Can the Township enter into a contract to sell public property?

    A Township can only enter into such a sales contract if the property is no longer being used for a public purpose. Michigan courts have defined “public purpose” to mean something that “has for its objective the promotion of the public health, safety, morals, general welfare, security, prosperity, and contentment of all the inhabitants within…

  2. Best Practices for Entering Into Township Contracts

    From purchasing office supplies to selecting a contractor to renovate the Township Hall, townships enter into contracts in some shape or form multiple times per year. Most of these transactions go smoothly. However, what happens when things do not go as planned? With appropriate review and thoroughness when entering into a contract, any issues or…

  3. My Township Got Sued? Now What?

    Litigation is almost always stressful, costly, and time-consuming. Most townships seek to avoid litigation where possible, but in some instances it is unavoidable. If your township is served with a lawsuit, it is important to have a plan and to take the appropriate steps in response, as failing to do so can have serious ramifications…

  4. Understanding Approvals with Conditions: The Basics and Best Practices for Imposing Land Use Conditions

    In this month’s E-Letter we will discuss land use approvals with conditions, including the basics, when imposing conditions on land use approvals is allowed, and the legal pitfalls to avoid. First, we will briefly discuss the basics of land use approvals with conditions and where the authority to impose conditions is derived. Second, we will…

  5. No. Where a zoning ordinance has created a permissive zoning framework, if a use is not listed as a permitted use, the non-listed use is prohibited.

  6. January 2024 Caselaw Update

    Throughout the last year, appellate courts at the state and federal level have decided several decisions that will have a notable impact on townships and municipalities in general. Given the large number of recent municipal cases, this E-Letter could not cover all recent municipal cases over the past year. The cases addressed in this E-Letter…

  7. Renewable Energy Projects: How Should Your Township Adjust Its Zoning Approach?

    Several legislative changes to regulation of wind, solar, and energy storage advanced quickly at the end of the legislative session with the aim of setting and achieving a 100% clean energy standard for Michigan’s power grid in less than twenty years. For local governments, the largest impact is on zoning, siting, and regulation of utility…

  8. Can two ordinance violations be listed on the same citation?

    Generally, yes; however, this may depend on the specific preference of the district court. It is a good idea to call and ask the district court prior to filing a ticket whether they want different ordinance violations on separate tickets. 

  9. Municipal Civil Infraction Citations: Ten Tips for Code Enforcement

    Municipalities and their residents want to ensure that ordinances are enforced to promote the general welfare of the community. The process of prosecuting most ordinance violations in court involves civil infraction citations and is statutorily provided for in the Revised Judicature Act, Chapter 87. In this month’s E-Letter, we present ten tips for code enforcement…

  10. Zoning it Out? – Applying Michigan’s Statutory Exclusionary Zoning Provision

    Many townships often want to know the limits of Michigan law with respect to the standards applicable to zoning to avoid excluding certain land uses within their borders. Case law suggests that some communities may find it necessary to strictly regulate the location of uses and structures through their Zoning Ordinance, including billboards, renewable energy…

  11. What are some land uses where the state has preempted local zoning control?

    There are a variety of examples where state law has “preempted” complete local zoning control by townships. These include, but are not limited to, certain transmission lines, cell towers and “small cell” deployments, oil and gas wells, and mineral extraction operations (mining). See e.g., MCL 125.3205.

  12. My Township has not formally adopted Robert’s Rules of Order, but we use them frequently for help with running meetings. Robert’s Rules and the Open Meetings Act require different information to be provided in meeting minutes. Which should we follow?

    The public bodies in your Township should follow the requirements of the Open Meetings Act before following conflicting, non-binding guides such as Robert’s Rules of Order. The Open Meetings Act requires that minutes for the public portions of a meeting contain the date, time, and place of a meeting, the members present and absent, any…

  13. A Guidebook to Robert’s Rules of Order: What You Need to Know!

    In this month’s E-Letter, we will consider the relevance of Robert’s Rules of Order in the context of your Township’s meeting procedures. This E-letter will discuss the scope of Robert’s Rules, and the various types of rules that are addressed. It will further explore that Robert’s Rules is non-binding on Townships, and only those Townships…

  14. Michigan Public Cemeteries: Municipal Control & Liability

    Numerous state statues grant municipalities the authority to create and manage public cemeteries. This e-letter explores concepts related to municipalities operating local cemeteries, including legal principles relating to burial space ownership and new case law concerning legal liability in the event of burial mistakes. MUNICIPAL CONTROL OF CEMETERIES Michigan treats the purchase of a cemetery…

  15. Are cemeteries owned and operated by municipalities subject to registration and auditing under the Cemetery Regulation Act, Act 251 of 1968, MCL 456.521 et seq.?

    No. MCL 456.530(1) states that a cemetery owned and operated by a municipal corporation is exempt from the Act. The Act defines a “municipal corporation” to include a county, city, village, or township. MCL 456.522(n).

  16. Can a township employer discipline or terminate an employee who makes a false accusation of discrimination or hrassment?

    Employees should not be subject to discipline or termination for filing a complaint in good faith. In other words, if the employee had a legitimate belief that discrimination or harassment occurred, they should not be retaliated against even if their complaint is not substantiated in an investigation. If the employer has overwhelming evidence that an…

  17. What Every Township Employer Should Know About Discrimination, Harassment, and Hostile Work Environments

    Nearly everyone has heard the term “hostile work environment,” and just about everyone has some idea what harassment and discrimination are. But those terms and how they work in the employment setting is very commonly misunderstood by employees, department heads, and elected officials. This confusion can result in misunderstandings, inconsistent application of rules, and, at…

  18. Can local governments receive cash back from the federal government for investing in clean energy?

    Yes and additional guidance is coming. Under the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022  local governments may receive direct payment of tax credits as cash subsidies to fund clean energy-related assets. Three sections of the Inflation Reduction Act grant federal support for some assets contributing to solar fields, geothermal heating, and clean fuel for commercial vehicles….

  19. Special and Conditional Use Permits – The “Do’s” and the “Don’ts”

    In this month’s E-Letter we will consider conditional use permits, also known as special use permits, and how your township can create clear decisions in which you can place confidence. First, we will quickly discuss what a conditional use permit is. Then we will cover several best practices to “Do” while also highlighting common pitfalls…

  20. Pressing Pause: Answers to Seven Frequently Asked Questions About Moratoriums

    Although townships will often navigate “routine issues,” every so often a township will be faced with a unique issue that may not be adequately addressed by a township ordinance. For example, there may be new development trends for a particular land use in a region that is not provided for in a township’s zoning ordinance….

  21. If an existing parcel is subject to a special assessment, what happens to the special assessment if the parcel is split?

    When a parcel with an existing special assessment is split, the Michigan Land Division Act authorizes a township assessor to apportion unpaid assessments between the newly created parcels under Section 53 of the Michigan General Property Tax Act. See MCL 560.109(1)(i)(ii). Similar to before any division, the apportioned special assessments are treated as liens on…

  22. Should Your Township Use “Self-Help”?

    In this month’s E-Letter we discuss whether a township can enforce its ordinances without involving a court. Often zoning ordinances, nuisance ordinances, and other police powers will purport to contain a “self-help” provision stating that a township can enforce an ordinance violation simply by giving notice to a landowner and an opportunity to be heard….

  23. Can a general law township have more than five members on its Township Board?

    Yes. A township board typically consists of a supervisor, treasurer, clerk, and two trustees. However, if your township has a population greater than 5,000 at the most recent census (or more than 3,000 registered electors) then two additional trustees may be added, bringing the board total to seven individuals. See MCL 41.70.

  24. Our Township’s master plan is 11 years old. Should the Township look at reviewing its master plan?

    Yes. The Michigan Planning and Enabling Act seeks to have municipalities that have exercised their zoning powers to conduct a review of their master plans every five years. Thus, it will be of value for you to look at reviewing your master plan consistent with the Planning and Enabling Act. Many townships conduct this process…

  25. Township Law Legal Update: January 2023 Caselaw Update

    Throughout the last year, the Michigan Court of Appeals and the Michigan Supreme Court have decided several decisions that will have a notable impact on townships and municipalities in general. Given the large number of recent municipal cases, this E-Letter could not cover all recent municipal as a whole. However, our December 2022 E-Letter addressed…

  26. Are all special use permits approved by a Township’s Planning Commission?

    No. Whether a special use permit is approved by the Township Planning Commission or recommended by the Planning Commission with approval by the Township Board depends on a Township’s own zoning ordinance. The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, Section 504, only requires that the approval standards be set forth in the Township zoning ordinance. Section 502…

  27. Township Law Legal Update: Top Five 2022 Municipal Law Cases To Not Forget

    In the last year, the Michigan Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court have issued multiple decisions that impact townships. Although this month’s E-letter could not cover all of those decisions, the E-Letter discusses five very notable decisions based on their substantial impact on townships not only in 2022, but in future years to come….

  28. Election-Related Freedom of Information Act Requests: Common Examples and Best Practices

    Municipalities have a clear statutory duty to respond to Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests related to public records concerning the administration of an election. By appropriately responding to such requests, municipalities can build trust between their residents and local government leaders while avoiding unnecessary litigation. This E-Letter specifically explores election-related FOIA requests by discussing…

  29. Is it correct that the Township’s zoning board of appeals can decide the meaning of a provision in the Township zoning ordinance?

    Yes! Many townships consider the Zoning Board of Appeals to primarily handle variances. Variances are an individual’s request to ask for flexibility in the township’s strict application of the zoning ordinance so that a certain use can commence or structure can be constructed that would otherwise violate the zoning ordinance. A ZBA’s sole purpose, however,…

  30. What is the difference between a SUP, CUP, and SLUP?

    Nomenclature. A SUP is a “Special Use Permit.” A CUP is a “Conditional Use Permit.” A SLUP is a “Special Land Use Permit.” Each name captures the same idea. These various “extra” land uses are authorized in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, MCL 125.3502(1), however, there is no explicit definition or requirement to use a…

  31. Industrial Hemp: What It Is and What You Can Do

    In this E-Letter we will explore the new and expanding area of industrial hemp. Along with the growth of medical and recreational marihuana products, there has been a rekindling of interest in new and traditional uses for hemp plants, in large part due to the popularity of CBD products. We will cover the different state…

  32. Can an individual abandon the right granted in a variance that was issued by the Zoning Board of Appeals?

    Yes, but abandonment is a fact-by-fact basis. Many zoning ordinances will address the principle of abandonment at least with respect to lawful nonconforming uses. The discontinuance of nonconforming uses is often commonplace because of explicit authorization for local municipalities to address such circumstances in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act: “(2) The legislative body may provide…

  33. How an Expanded Paid Sick Time Law May Impact Your Township

    A change to state law may soon mean that Michigan employers of all sizes (including townships!) will be required to provide paid sick time to employees. For many Michigan townships, this will be the first time that a state-mandated paid leave will apply to their operations. This E-Letter will discuss a recent Michigan Court of…

  34. Is it true that a Township may respond to a request for records under the Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) by providing a website link/address to responsive records maintained on the Township’s website in lieu of providing physical or electronic copies?

    Yes. The FOIA states that “if the FOIA coordinator knows or has reason to know that all or a portion of the requested information is available on its website, the public body shall notify the requestor in its written response that all or a portion of the requested information is available on its website.” The…

  35. The First Amendment Revisited: Municipal Regulation of Speech, Censuring Board Members, and Regulation of Art

    While local governments have constitutional and statutory authority to regulate matters within their jurisdictions, those powers are not without limits. Governmental regulations can be called into question when they implicate the First Amendment. This E-Letter will discuss recent court decisions dealing with the First Amendment and how those cases could pertain to your municipality. Those…

  36. Can an at-will employee be terminated for any reason at all?

    Not exactly. At-will employment is the default form of employment in Michigan and applies to almost all non-union employees in the state. At-will employment allows either the employer or the employee to terminate the relationship at any time and for almost any reason. Employers may not terminate employees (even those who are at-will) for unlawful…

  37. Free Speech and Township Employees: A Breakdown of Public Employee Speech Rights

    Public employers (like townships!) are more limited than private employers in the ability to discipline or even terminate their at-will employees, including for what they say or post on social media outside of work hours. The 1st and 14th Amendments to the US Constitution guarantee that federal, state, and local governments will not interfere with…

  38. Does our township have to proceed with a special assessment project under Act 188 if we receive a property owner petition for the project?

    No. The common township special assessment statute, Act 188 of 1954 (“Act 188”), allows property owners to submit petitions to a township for the purposes of proceeding with a project (e.g., road paving, sidewalks, and streetlights, among many others). See MCL 41.723(4). Unlike other statutes that mandate action upon receipt of a petition (e.g., the…

  39. Top Seven Township Special Assessment Mistakes

    In Michigan, townships often use special assessments to fund a myriad of improvements ranging from building sidewalks, treating inland lakes for invasive aquatic weeds, and improving roadways to providing police and fire protection. The most common statute for township special assessment projects is Act 188 of 1954, MCL 41.721 et seq., (“Act 188”) which authorizes…

  40. I received a Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request and sent a 10-day extension as an initial response. How do I calculate my new deadline to respond?

    The rule of thumb is 15 business days from the date the request is deemed received under the FOIA, Act 442 of 1976, MCL 15.231 et seq. The FOIA requires a public body to respond to a request for public records within 5 business days after the public body receives the request by either: (1)…

  41. Regulating Off- and On-Premises Signs: Can it be Done?

    Does your municipality’s Zoning Ordinance regulate off- and on-premises signs? The constitutionality of these types of signs has been an open question since 2015 when the United States Supreme Court issued a decision regarding content-based restrictions on signage in Reed v Town of Gilbert. The Supreme Court recently clarified the scope of its holding in…

  42. We are in the process of reviewing the constitutionality of our sign ordinance. Can we make a decision between on-premise and off-premise signs?

    That’s excellent that you are working on reviewing your sign ordinance. Many ordinances still contain content-specific regulations that would not pass constitutional muster, and townships should be reviewing and considering how to revise current provisions to align with First Amendment protections. The constitutionality of on-premise and off-premise sign distinctions has been an open question since…

  43. Five Things to Know About Adult-Use Marihuana Establishments in 2022

    Almost four years have passed since Michigan voters approved the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (“MRTMA”), which became effective December 6, 2018. The MRTMA authorized adult-use marihuana within Michigan, including licensure to operate adult-use marihuana establishments. Since the enactment of the MRTMA, the legal landscape continues to change as municipalities work to implement…

  44. Getting the Most out of Civil Infractions: Violation Notices, Informal Hearings, Warning Letters and Consent Judgments

    Many townships have adopted municipal civil infractions ordinances to provide for the streamlined enforcement of township ordinances in district court. However, even with this simplified process, enforcement can be an uphill battle. This E-Letter explores a few lesser-known tips and strategies that can save time and money while still getting results. A Quick Primer on…

  45. Will the Right to Farm Act prevent my township from enforcing bans on farm animals in residential districts? What about regulations on farm equipment?

    The RTFA will only preclude enforcement against the animal or equipment in question if several factors are met, and it is unlikely that these factors would be met in a residential neighborhood. The Right to Farm Act’s (“RTFA”) protections only attach if a supposed “farm” meets the following requirements: qualifies as a “farming operation;” is…

  46. When does one of our Planning Commission members have a conflict of interest?

    This is a great question! The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act (MZEA) and Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MPEA) both specify that a conflict of interest will require a Commission member to abstain from voting on a matter. See e.g. MCL 125.3601(7) (stating that a member of a Zoning Board of Appeal may be removed for malfeasance…

  47. A Township’s Guide to Protecting Attorney-Client Communications

    Townships are public governmental entities. As such, Townships have practical and legal implications that require them to transact business in the open and with transparency. In transacting Township business, Townships frequently are advised by their township attorneys. These attorneys provide advice through various communications, which may include emails, letters, and texts. Townships may then internally…

  48. Update on Remote Participation in Public Meetings

    Today, the Attorney General released an opinion determining that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) requires public bodies subject to the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) to provide reasonable accommodations to allow elected officials and members of the general public with a qualifying disability to fully participate in meetings if the requirements of…

  49. Can the County require a Township to pay the assessed value of foreclosed property rather than the amount owed in back taxes?

    Yes, recent cases and legislation have impacted the foreclosure process. In a published Court of Appeals decision, the Court analyzed the retroactive application of changes to the tax foreclosure process that occurred under the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in Rafaeli, LLC v Oakland Co, 505 Mich 429 (2020). Under Rafaeli, our Supreme Court explained foreclosing…

  50. Municipal Caselaw Update

    There is something for everyone this month as our E-letter recaps several cases of interest to municipalities. We review the taxes available for levy to charter townships, the importance of zoning definitions and when a land use may become abandoned, the proper determination of when plaintiff must file a sewer overflow case, how to properly…

  51. Will COVID Continue to Impact My Township in 2022?

    Unfortunately, all indications suggest that COVID-19 will continue to play a major role in your township’s operations in 2022, from conducting meetings to setting employment policies.  Read on for more information about how you can best prepare to deal with these ongoing, ever-changing developments. Open Meetings Act: Limitations on Meeting Electronically The Open Meetings Act…

  52. True or False? In December 2021, the Michigan Legislature voted to extend amendments to the Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) to provide public bodies discretion on whether to host open meetings electronically.

    False. As presently written, after December 31, 2021, public bodies subject to the OMA may only accommodate the absence of members who qualify for military duty accommodation.

  53. Our township is in the process of adopting a blight ordinance and civil infractions ordinance. Do we have to hold a public hearing prior to adoption of either?

    No. Neither a general law nor charter township is required by law to hold a public hearing for the adoption of a general police power ordinance. Both of these ordinances would be considered that type of ordinance. Instead, a general law township can introduce and adopt such an ordinance at a single meeting without a…

  54. Top 5 Insider Tips for Townships Buying or Selling Property

    Approximately 13% of the land in Michigan is owned by State and local government units. With Townships being among those owning a vast amount of property, it is not uncommon for Townships to engage in the purchase of property for the benefit of their local communities or the sale of property not needed for municipal…

  55. Getting to the Bottom of Federal COVID-19 Vaccination Requirements

    In response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published the COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing; Emergency Temporary Standard (Rules) on November 5, 2021. Along with rules for health care services and federal contractors, these new standards for private employers with 100 or more employees are the third, and most…

  56. Does a nonconforming use run with the land and transfer to a subsequent owner who buys a property?

    Generally, yes. The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act codified the principle of lawful nonconforming uses in MCL 125.3208. The Act provides: “If the use of a dwelling, building, or structure or of the land is lawful at the time of enactment of a zoning ordinance or an amendment to a zoning ordinance, then that use may…

  57. Protecting Your Township Boundaries

    Should you be worried about annexation of your township’s territory to an adjacent city? Understanding the process of annexation and what you can do about it will help you answer that question. What is Annexation? Annexation is the process by which territory moves from a township to a city (village annexation is a separate process…

  58. Can the Township handle its own code enforcement without having its Township attorney involved in each case?

    Yes. Townships can explore implementing civil infraction notices and citations as penalties. Townships using civil infraction notices and citations have two potential avenues to provide enforcement without involving the Township attorney with each issue. For the first option, the Township can establish a violations bureau that allows the Township to issue municipal civil notice violations…

  59. The Great (Inland) Lakes State: Township Inland Lake Improvements

    Michigan is blessed with abundant natural resources, many of which are located within Michigan’s townships. Of those natural resources, Michigan is home to over 11,000 inland lakes. As Michigan’s townships encompass approximately over 95% of the state’s land area, most lakes are located within townships. Inland lakes offer numerous benefits to townships. They: (1) can…

  60. If the Township Planning Commission is holding a public hearing on a special land use request, does the Commission also need to hold a public hearing on the related site plan?

    Generally, no. The Michigan Zoning Enabling Act addresses the approval of special/conditional land uses and site plans. Within each Township that has zoning, the Township has adopted an ordinance to administer its zoning. Township zoning ordinances will always allow for a public hearing for special/conditional use approvals. However, site plans are not required to be…

  61. Content-Based Regulations of Signage

    Recent federal court decisions have redefined the limits of the First Amendment’s protections of signs across the country and in Michigan, so municipal review of such regulations is certainly timely. In light of Reed v Town of Gilbert, Ariz, a recent sign decision, Justice Kagan of the United States Supreme Court opined that “many sign ordinances ….

  62. Beginner’s Guide to Conquering Large-Scale FOIA Requests

    Attention FOIA Coordinators! Have you ever received an extensive Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) request that leaves you wondering how you should respond? As the individuals tasked with answering your municipalities’ requests for information, you may be questioning whether you even have adequate time or resources to answer large-scale requests. This e-letter will address how…

  63. What is attorney-client privilege? Are communications subject to attorney-client privilege only if they contain an explicit notice notifying as much?

    (1) What is attorney-client privilege? Attorney-client privilege protects certain communications made between the Township and your Township attorney from disclosure to members of the public, hostile individuals or outside entities. Not all communications between the Township and the Township attorney are subject to attorney-client privilege. The communication must be intended to be confidential, and concern…

  64. ADA in the Township Hall

    The Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”) and its Michigan counterpart, the Persons with Disabilities Civil Rights Act (“PWDCRA”) are well-known but often misunderstood laws that can have serious impacts on your township’s operations. From employment law landmines to the confusion surrounding service animals, the ADA is filled with pitfalls that can all too easily result…

  65. How much can our Township charge for adult-use license types, such as a retailer or microbusiness license?

    Section 6.4 of Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (“MRTMA”) states “[a] municipality may charge an annual fee of not more than $5,000 to defray application, administrative, and enforcement costs associated with the operation of the marihuana establishment in the municipality.” Many municipalities apply this section of the MRTMA to the application and review…

  66. Can an overlay zoning district exist as a distinct district for uses within a zoning ordinance?

    Yes. An overlay district sits on top of an existing zoning classification and permits additional uses. Overlay districts are particularly helpful in providing specialized zoning requirements for unique land uses from utility scale solar or windfarms to intensive livestock or commercial farming operations to marihuana facilities or establishments. With a renewable energy overlay placed in…

  67. Regulating Caregivers: What Your Township Can Do

    Recent cases from the Michigan Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals have affirmed the authority of townships to regulate Primary Caregiver growing operations under the original Michigan Medical Marihuana Act from 2008 (“MMMA”). Under the MMMA, a caregiver can grow up to 72 plants with minimal state regulation on their activity. Although less intensive…

  68. Election Law Briefing: Key Points to Consider in Overseeing the Local Ballot Initiative Process

    On its face, a local ballot initiative seems like a straightforward process: petitions are circulated, signatures are counted, and ballot language is approved; in reality, there are many factors to consider. Local ballot initiatives are created by individual statutes that do not share uniform processes and requirements. Further, the Michigan Election Law (“Election Law”) imposes…

  69. Can a township board adjust compensation of board members whenever it chooses?

    No. While townships without a compensation commission may increase a board member’s compensation at any time, board compensation can only be decreased during the current term if the board member consents in writing and there is a corresponding reduction in responsibilities and requirements of the job. Board compensation can be decreased to be effective the…

  70. Is My Township Required to Have an Open Meetings Act (“OMA”) Policy Even If We Do Not Meet Electronically?

    The OMA requires public bodies (including township boards) to establish certain procedures to accommodate the electronic attendance of a member(s) of the public body due to military duty, a medical condition, or a statewide or local state of emergency. These procedures set forth how a township will accommodate the electronic attendance, how the absent member(s)…

  71. Defending Tax Appeals

    Now that Notices of Assessment have been issued and March Boards of Review have been completed, Townships should start preparing to defend 2021 property tax appeals. This E-Letter (and our May Webinar) will address the “what,” “when,” and “how” for Townships to be prepared to receive, handle, and defend property tax appeals that are filed…

  72. Renewable Energy Projects – Getting Past Go

    Renewable energy projects including utility-scale wind and solar energy developments are becoming more and more prevalent in Michigan. In response to the coronavirus pandemic, Congress passed the Taxpayer Certainty and Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 in late December. This Act contains several provisions that will continue the development of renewable energy projects in Michigan….

  73. What can my township do with leftover Act 188 special assessment funds?

    Act 188 of 1954 (“Act 188”) is a statute that many townships use to finance many improvements using special assessments ranging from lake improvements to rubbish collection. See MCL 41.722. Although Act 188 requires townships to approve project costs, there are times when a township may collect more in special assessments from property owners than…

  74. Does a Township Planning Commission Member continue to serve as a member if their term has expired and there has been no appointment of a new member?

    Yes. The Michigan Planning Enabling Act (MPEA) states that Planning Commission members shall be appointed by the Township Supervisor for 3-year terms. MCL 125.3815(1). The MPEA  states that “[a] member shall hold office until his or her successor is appointed.” MCL 125.3815(2). So if the member’s 3-year term has expired, they can continue to serve…

  75. Year in Review: 2020 Zoning and Planning Court Decisions

    Every year Michigan courts decide cases involving zoning and planning. 2020 was no different with several interesting cases deciding important zoning and planning concepts. Not all of these decisions created new law, but highlight important zoning and planning concepts that Townships deal with daily. This month’s E-Letter specifically highlights zoning and planning decisions related to…

  76. Does a Township Zoning Board of Appeals have to do more in its final decision than simply stating whether a request is granted or denied?

    Generally, yes. Typically, a Township’s Zoning Ordinance will provide for a written standard that must be applied when considering a request for a variance. Note there are certain criteria for variances established in the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, even if specifics are not provided in the Township’s Zoning Ordinance. See MCL 125.3604. The Zoning Board…

  77. W-2 or 1099? How to Utilize Independent Contractors Without Putting Your Township at Risk

    Many townships rely heavily on independent contractors for township services. Whether the township uses independent contractors to manage and maintain its cemetery, mow its parks, or clean the township hall, independent contractors are important service providers for many townships. Independent contractors are individuals who operate their own business and offer their services to the general…

  78. Michigan Legislature Passes Bill to Extend Provisions for Public Bodies to Meet Remotely under the Open Meetings Act

    On December 9, 2020, the Michigan Senate voted 36-1 to pass Senate Bill 1246 (2020), a bill to amend the Open Meetings Act and extend the dates during which public bodies can meet remotely for any reason until March 30, 2021. The House voted to pass the bill on December 16, 2021, by a vote…

  79. What is the relationship between Assessed Value, Taxable Value, and True Cash Value or Market Value?

    True Cash Value and Market Value have been determined by Michigan Courts to be synonymous terms. The tax statute uses the term True Cash Value. True Cash Value means the price a willing buyer and willing seller would agree to through an arms-length transaction of the subject property as of tax day. Tax day is…

  80. 2020 Property Tax Update

    The State Tax Commission (“STC”) is a three-member commission appointed by the Governor. The STC is the authority charged with supervising the administration of the property tax laws in Michigan. In 2020, the STC released bulletins that provide guidance to assessors of local units of government. In this E-Letter we discuss and highlight Bulletin 08:…

  81. Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (“MDHHS”) Announces New COVID-19 Related Restrictions Amid COVID-19

    As of November 14, 2020, the State of Michigan has reported 251,813 cases and 7,994 deaths due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In response, Robert Gordon Director of the MDHHS announced additional COVID-19 related safeguards through a newly promulgated Gatherings and Face Mask Order (the “Order”) on November 15. The Order contains many updates that concern municipalities, including…

  82. Can the County relinquish control over the public roads in the Township?

    Yes. The Board of County Road Commissioners can do so under the General Highway Law, MCL 224.18. To relinquish jurisdiction over a road to a township, the Board must 1) adopt a resolution relinquishing jurisdiction and control over the road and 2) publish notice in a newspaper of general circulation in the county once a…

  83. 2020 Election Issues Update

    With the 2020 General Election only days away, it is important to have an up-to-date understanding of all laws, court cases, and regulations that may impact your polling place. This E-letter will provide an overview of the latest developments that could potentially impact your operations, and inform you of the current state of the law…

  84. Update: Supreme Court’s October 12, 2020 Ruling

    On October 12, 2020, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in House of Representatives and Senate v Governor (a pending state case challenging the Governor’s executive orders) that Governor Whitmer’s executive orders adopted after April 30, 2020, and involving COVID-19, lack any legal effect under Michigan law for the same reasons that the Supreme Court provided…

  85. Does a bidder who was not selected for a public works project have grounds to sue the Township for not being selected?

    No. Michigan cases demonstrate that the submission of a bid does not establish any reasonable expectancy to have been awarded the public project. This is regardless of whether the bidder was the lowest bidder, as Michigan courts have determined that a bidder has no standing to sue the Township. This includes any claims to recover…

  86. Short-Term Rentals: What You Need to Know

    “Short-term rentals” (“STRs”) generally refer to houses offered for temporary rental occupation, often facilitated by websites such as Airbnb, HomeAway and VRBO. The issue has gained significance in many communities, creating a hotly debated discussion over whether these uses are already allowed throughout various residential districts, and, if they are not allowed, whether a township…

  87. The local paper issues a monthly paper, whereas the county-wide paper issues a paper more frequently. Does the Township have to post its notices for zoning public hearings in the local paper to comply with the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act?

    No, as long as the county-wide paper is “generally circulated” in the Township. Under the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, public hearings must be noticed through publication in a newspaper. But, the Zoning Enabling Act does not require the newspaper be specific to the Township or that it be the newspaper with the most subscribers within…

  88. 10 Things Your Township Should Consider About Outdoor Dining and Retail Regulations

    Restaurant owners, entrepreneurs, and other businesses here and around the world have utilized outdoor dining or retail space to enhance the consumer experience for decades. With the emergence of COVID-19, however, there has been an increase in local municipalities questioning how to best support businesses while also adhering to social distancing and other preventative measures….

  89. When a resident gifts a monetary donation to a township fire department, who is responsible for approving the expenditures resulting from the donation?

    Although the language of the bequest may impact the exact answer to this question, assuming that the fire department is part of the township, the township board is responsible for determining how the money should be spent. Statutes governing both charter townships and general law townships specify that expenditures need to be authorized by a…

  90. Is a Township required to receive sealed competitive bids before letting contracts on public works projects?

    Is a Township required to receive sealed competitive bids before letting contracts on public works projects? No. The Michigan Legislature had adopted state law requiring Townships to receive sealed competitive bids for contracts of $20,000 or more. Subsequently, the Legislature repealed the relevant law. With no statutory requirement to engage in a competitive bidding process,…

  91. Can the Treasurer of a township also hold a position of Office Manager for a separate township?

    More than likely, yes, under the current law, but it should be considered carefully because it ultimately depends on the factual context of the situation, and there also will be practical reasons to consider. The statute governing these types of circumstances (whether an individual can hold positions in two different public offices) is Michigan’s Incompatible…

  92. May a Township Regulate Primary Caregiver Operations Under the Original 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act?

    Yes. Very recently the Michigan Supreme Court reversed lower court decisions and held that zoning ordinances are valid under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). In DeRuiter v Byron Twp, the Court considered a local zoning ordinance that required primary caregivers to grow marihuana for other patients only at a full-time residence as part of…

  93. Does a Township Need a Resolution to Impose an Unpaid Utility Bill on a Property that is Rented by a Tenant?

    It depends on the type of utility service. Presumably you are referencing unpaid water and sewer services.  Under certain circumstances, a Township may not place liens on properties for unpaid water and sewer services if tenants pay a property’s water and sewer bills. The Township cannot place liens on properties for unpaid water and sewer…

  94. Are Zoning and Building Officials under the Supervision of the Township Supervisor or the Board?

    Q&A Video Clips Are township officials under the direct supervision of the Supervisor or are they under the direction of the entire Township Board? Attorney Matthew Kuschel answers this question at the 2019 MTA Conference’s Q&A segment “We’re Glad You Asked That” At the MTA 2019 Conference, our attorney’s hosted our annual Question and Answer…

  95. Can the Revenue from a Special Assessment be Applied to Delinquent Property Taxes?

    Q&A Video Clips Can the revenue from a special assessment be applied to delinquent property taxes? Attorney Chris Patterson answers this question at the 2019 Michigan Townships Association Conference’s Q&A segment “We’re Glad You Asked That” At the MTA 2019 Conference, our attorney’s hosted our annual Question and Answer panel to address the questions you…

  96. Can the Township Fund a Holiday Party with Public Expenditures?

    Q&A Video Clips Can public expenditures be used to fund the Township’s holiday party? Attorney Kyle O’Meara answers this question at the 2019 Michigan Townships Association Conference’s Q&A segment “We’re Glad You Asked That” At the MTA 2019 Conference, our attorney’s hosted our annual Question and Answer panel to address the questions you submitted. Our…

  97. Is a Township Deputy Treasurer permitted to hold a position on the Township Board of Review?

    Not Likely. The Deputy Treasurer and a board or review member appear to be incompatible offices. The Incompatible Offices Act, 556 PA 1978, prohibits a public officer or employee from holding 2 or more incompatible offices at the same time. MCL 15.181(2). The Act establishes a three-part test to determine whether two positions are “incompatible.”…

  98. Can Townships play a role in ensuring taxes earmarked for roads are used for their intended purpose?

    Q&A Video Clips Earmarked funds are sometimes diverted to other purposes instead of their intended use. Can the Township do anything to prevent this? Attorney Bill Fahey answers this question at the 2019 MTA Conference’s Q&A segment “We’re Glad You Asked That” At the MTA 2019 Conference, our attorney’s hosted our annual Question and Answer…

  99. Does a Township Clerk have to record every comment by officials and public members in the minutes?

    No. The Open Meetings Act determines the necessary information for minutes. It provides the following required information: The public body meeting; The date, time and place of the meeting; The members present and members absent; All decisions made at the meeting (i.e., motions and resolutions, committee assignments, etc); The purpose or purposes for which the…

  100. Can a private business request the Township’s entire electronic tax roll?

    A variety of private companies now submit these requests to townships throughout the state to, in-part, aggregate data to re-sell to their private customers. These companies often suggest “easy” ways to upload the electronic information hoping a township will not charge them a fee. Township can recoup expenses associated with having electronic public records available…

1 2