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Update Regarding Township Park Commissions: Township Voters May Now Dissolve a Commission by Vote

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Administrative & Municipal Practice Group
Foster Swift Municipal Law News
February 2009

In our August 2008 Newsletter, we summarized a Michigan Court of Appeals decision that struck down an attempt by voters to dissolve through an election a township parks commission that township voters previously created. Risk v Lincoln Charter Twp Bd of Trustees, 279 Mich App 389 (2008). The Court explained that the Township Parks Act addresses how to create a township park commission but does not address how to dissolve one. In contrast, several other statutes expressly provide for both establishing and dissolving various commissions, boards, and programs by voters. The Court, in line with a 1999 Attorney General opinion on the subject, therefore concluded that a voter-established township park commission may not be dissolved by vote of the electors.

Since that summary, the Michigan Legislature has enacted Public Act 496 to revise the rules on dissolving a park commission. Act 496, which became effective January 13, 2009, now allows township voters to dissolve a park commission by a vote. Act 496 spells out the process to get that question on the ballot – a petition with at least 8% of township voters is required to get the process going. It also specifies what happens to the park’s assets if the vote to dissolve the park commission is successful: the park assets are transferred to the township board.