The following opinion is presented on-line for informational use only and does not replace the official version. (Mich Dept of Attorney General Web Site -



Opinion No. 5451

March 7, 1979


Due process


Special assessments for fire protection


Special assessments for fire protection


Special assessments for fire protection

Where a township board provides for the purchase of fire extinguishing equipment and housing and creates a special assessment district to defray the cost thereof, notice of hearing to consider estimated cost must be given by mail to all known owners of property in the special assessment district.

Honorable Thomas Guastello

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested an opinion on whether it is necessary to send notice by mail of the annual hearing on estimated costs for township special assessments for fire protection, provided under 1951 PA 33; MCLA 41.801 et seq; MSA 5.2640 et seq.

1951 PA 33, supra, Sec. 1, provides that the township board of any township, or adjoining townships, acting jointly, may purchase fire extinguishing equipment and housing and defray the cost thereof through creation of a special assessment district. A hearing is required to consider the estimated cost for the equipment and housing, as well as the necessity for the special assessment district. The act provides for notice of the hearing by publication in a newspaper of general circulation. Thereafter, an annual hearing by the township board or boards on the amount to be assessed in the district is held, and notice of this hearing is also by publication.

Since the landmark case of Mullane v Central Hanover Bank and Trust Co, Trustee, 339 US 306; 70 S Ct 652; 94 L Ed 865 (1950), it has been established that due process of law requires that notice of hearing must be reasonably calculated under all the circumstances of the matter to apprise interested parties of the action being taken and an opportunity to present their objection. In Mullane, supra and also in Walker v City of Hutchinson, 352 US 112, 77 S Ct 200, 1 L Ed 2d 178 (1956), notice by publication was found to be insufficient where the names of the interested parties were known. Likewise, in Ridenour v County of Bay, 366 Mich 225; 114 NW2d 172 (1962), the county public works act, which provided for special assessment districts to defray the cost of construction of a sewer program, was held to violate the due process clause of the Federal and Michigan Constitutions for failure to provide notice other than publication for known residents of the special assessment district. To the same effect is International Salt Co v Wayne County Drain Commissioner, 367 Mich 160, 116 NW2d 328 (1962) wherein it was held that notice by publication and posting was not sufficient to inform known property owners of a special assessment hearing.

Finally, in Harter v City of Swartz Creek (On Rehearing), 68 Mich App 403, 407; 242 NW2d 792 (1976), the Court reiterated the rule for special assessment districts:

'Both Ridenour, supra, and International Salt, supra, involved special assessment districts and stand for the proposition that in such cases publication of notice in a local newspaper would always be constitutionally deficient as to known parties. [Emphasis in original]

Thus, it is my opinion that notice by mail must be given to all known owners of property in the special assessment district.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General