Planning Commission Membership and Promoting Ballot Proposals
Coordinated by the League’s Information & Policy Research Department
Q. Does an individual have to be a city resident to serve on the city’s planning commission?
A. The required composition of the planning commission is outlined in the Michigan Planning Enabling Act at MCL 125.3815 (legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-125-3815). Briefly, depending on the size of the community, 1, 2, or 3 of the members do not have to be “qualified electors” (i.e. residents of the city over the age of 18). You will want to run this question past your municipal attorney to make certain there is nothing in local ordinances, planning commission bylaws, etc. that would apply in addition to the state law.
Q. Our city is having a millage election for an additional 1.75 mills for police and fire. The council has discussed the state statute that prohibits us from spending public money on “commercials” for residents to vote “yes.” We are wondering if this prohibition applies to our regular quarterly newsletter? The newsletter is for residents and includes announcements, deadlines, and discussion on various topics. Can we use it to “encourage” residents to vote for the millage? It will not cost us any more money than is usually spent on the newsletter.
A. Anything the League can do to provide you with the information you need, we are pleased to help with. We know that is an important benefit of your League membership. However, we often have to tell you to check with your municipal attorney. We have to do this for two reasons: First, by statute the League cannot give a legal opinion. Second, even if we could, often the specific answer is based on local ordinances and policies of which we have no knowledge. We can, however, provide background information that we hope you—and the municipal attorney—find useful. And on this you need to check with the attorney. In general, a newsletter can be used strictly to disseminate information to residents on the millage, e.g. what the millage will buy and what will happen if it does not pass. However, the council cannot “encourage” them to vote either for or against any issue, but only “to vote.”
Q. We have to cancel a meeting scheduled for tonight. What does the Open Meetings Act say about cancelling a meeting?
A. Actually the Open Meetings Act (267 PA 1976 http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-Act-267-of-1976) does
not speak to cancellation of a scheduled meeting. Many communities have adopted a policy whereby they post a cancellation notice as soon as possible. They also have found it helpful to have someone be at the place posted at the time of the scheduled meeting to let people who have not seen the notice know that the meeting has been cancelled. And, of course, anyone scheduled to attend the meeting, whether a member of the council or board, or someone scheduled to appear before them, should be notified individually.
Q. What is the difference in the General Law Village Act and the General Law Village Handbook on the League’s website?
A. The General Law Village Act (3 PA 1895 http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-Act-3-of-1895) is a state statute which serves as the charter for the 210 general law villages in the state of Michigan. The Handbook for General Law Village Officials (www.mml.org/resources/publications/ebooks/glv.htm) contains general information and sample documents that elected and appointed officials in a general law village may find useful—however, it is not the law but rather information the League has collected over the years that we hope you will find helpful. There is a similar handbook for officials in home rule villages and cities also on the website, Handbook for Municipal Officials (ww.mml. org/resources/publications/ebooks/hmo.htm).
As one of the oldest League benefits, the Information Service provides member officials with answers to questions on a vast array of municipal topics. Examples of items in our collection
are sample ordinances, policies, programs, articles, referrals, charter provisions, and regulations. Send your municipal
inquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org, or call our information department