[ Previous Page]  [ Home Page ]

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 - www.ag.state.mi.us)



Opinion No. 5928

June 30, 1981


Effect of disapproval of annexation proposal in portion of township to be annexed

Time for challenge of annexation

Disapproval of proposed annexation of territory of a township to a city by the electors in one of the separate townships whose territories were sought to be annexed has no adverse impact on the legality of the annexations of the territory from the other two townships where requisite approvals were obtained.

A challenge to an annexation vote must be timely made and an annexation approved by the electors in 1926 and acquiesced in by the affected governmental units is not subject to challenge.

Honorable Michael J. O'Brien

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have asked three questions concerning annexations of lands from the Townships of Redford, Dearborn and Greenfield by the City of Detroit in 1925 which may be stated as follows:

1. Did the rejection of annexation, at the election on April 6, 1925, by Greenfield Township voters living in the proposed annexation area, adversely affect the annexations of territory from the Townships of Redford and Dearborn to the City of Detroit which were approved by the voters on that date?

2. When is an appropriate time for a citizen to challenge an annexation, including any specific deadlines?

3. Were any constitutional rights of the residents of Greenfield Township violated in connection with the annexation considered by the voters of the Townships of Redford, Dearborn and Greenfield and the City of Detroit in the election of April 6, 1925?

As to your first question, records provided to this office by citizens interested in this matter, as well as the appendix to 1925 LA, pp 39-41, indicate that there were two separate annexation proposals voted upon on April 6, 1925. One proposal was for the annexation of the 'northerly portion' of Greenfield Township to the City of Detroit, which was approved by the voters of the township and the city and by the township voters in the territory to be annexed. The other proposal was for annexation of portions of the Townships of Redford, Dearborn and Greenfield to the City of Detroit. The annexation of portions of the Townships of Redford and Dearborn was approved by the necessary majorities of voters, but the annexation of the Greenfield Township territory, which was part of this joint proposal, was rejected by the voters residing in that township area. Accordingly, the annexation which took place and which was recorded in the appendix to Local Acts, supra, was as to the territory in Redford and Dearborn Townships described on the ballot proposal of April 6, 1925, but the Greenfield Township territory described on that ballot proposal remained a part of that township.

The annexation of territory from Redford and Dearborn Townships approved by the voters on April 6, 1925 was recognized as lawful by the Supreme Court in considering an issue of property tax assessment in the annexed territory in Koch v Detroit, 236 Mich 338, 339; 210 NW 239 (1926). The Supreme Court's recognition of these annexations involving more than one township as to territory in those townships which had the necessary majorities voting for the annexation was consistent with its previous ruling in Cook v Kent County Board of Canvassers, 190 Mich 149, 154-155; 155 NW 1033 (1916).

Therefore, in answer to your first question as to whether the negative Greenfield Township vote on April 6, 1925 should be defeated the entire annexation, it is my opinion that the negative vote of the Greenfield Township voters on that date as to the annexation of Greenfield Township territory, which was part of the combined ballot question, had no adverse impact on the legality of the annexations of the territory from Redford Township and Dearborn Township, which were approved by the voters on that date as part of the same ballot question.

The second question deals with the time during which citizens may challenge annexations. There are, at present, diverse methods of annexation of the territory of one local unit of government by another which are authorized by law in Michigan, principally under the state boundary commission act, 1968 PA 191, as amended; MCLA 123.1001 et seq; MSA 5.2242(1) et seq and the home rule cities act, 1909 PA 279, as amended; MCLA 117.1 et seq; MSA 5.2071 et seq. Judicial review of annexation decisions of the State Boundary Commission is provided for by 1968 PA 191, supra, Sec. 18, pursuant to the provision of the Administrative Procedures Act, 1969 PA 306, as amended; MCLA 24.201 et seq; MSA 3.560(101) et seq, Sec. 104(1), which requires that a petition for review be filed in the circuit court within sixty days following the final decision of the State Boundary Commission.

The rusults of referendum elections, as to those annexations which are subject to such elections, may be challenged as follows:

a. For fraud or error, by petition for a recount to the board of county canvassers within six days after that board has completed its original canvass. 1954 PA 116, Secs. 863 and 866, as amended; MCLA 168.863; MSA 6.1863; MCLA 168.866; MSA 6.1866.

b. For material fraud or error, by an action brought within 30 days after the referendum in the circuit court of the county where the referendum occurred, 1961 PA 236, Sec. 4545, as amended; MCLA 600.4545; MSA 27A.4545; or

c. By petition for superintending control (formally certiorari) for errors apparent on the face of the return of the election results, 1954 PA 116, Sec. 877; MCLA 168.877; MSA 6.1877. This statute refers to certiorari which has since been replaced by superintending control in the General Court Rules. GCR 1963, 711.3. The General Court Rules and statutes do not express any specific time limit for the commencement of an action of superintending control. A general statute of limitations states that all personal actions, not otherwise provided for, shall be commenced within six years after the claims accrue. 1961 PA 236, Sec. 5813; MCLA 600.5813; MSA 27A.5813. However, this statute, even if applicable to superintending control, may not provide a basis for challenging annexation if that challenge is not brought promptly. 1961 PA 236, Sec. 5815; MCLA 600.5815; MSA 27A.5815 provides that the equitable doctrine of laches shall apply in all actions where equitable relief is sought. The doctrine of laches is summarized in School District No 14, Fractional v School District No 1, 266 Mich 479, 485-486; 254 NW 174, 176 (1934), involving a dispute about the boundaries of school districts as follows:

"The omission to do what one is by law required to do to protect his rights, and which justifies a fair presumption that he has abandoned the same, under circumstances which misled or prejudiced an adverse party, may in equity operate as laches which bar the assertion of such right later under changed conditions, even though the statute of limitations has not run.' Olson v. Williams, 185 Mich. 294, 301.

"The doctrine of laches is founded upon long inaction to assert a right, attended by such intermediate change of conditions as renders it inequitable to enforce the right.' Angeloff v. Smith, 254 Mich. 99, 101.'

As noted in 1 OAG, 1955, No 2344, p 730 (December 14, 1955), in response to a question concerning an annexation election held in 1916, those municipal annexations, which have been long recognized by the governmental entities involved, are deemed to be regular and are not open to question. This legal doctrine was stated by Justice Campbell in the early case of People v Maynard, 15 Mich 463, 470 (1867), involving the propriety of the organization of a township:

'[If] this question had been raised immediately, we are not prepared to say that it would have been altogether free from difficulty. But, inasmuch, as the arrangement there indicated had been acted upon for ten years before the recent legislation, and had been recognized as valid by all parties interested, it cannot now be disturbed. Even in private associations, the acts of parties interested may often estop them from relying on legal objections, which might have availed them if not waived. But in public affairs, where the people have organized themselves under color of law into the ordinary municipal bodies, and have gone on year after year raising taxes, making improvements, and exercising their usual franchises, their rights are properly regarded as depending quite as much on the acquiescence as on the regularity of their origin; and no ex post facto inquiry can be permitted to undo their corporate existence. Whatever may be the rights of individuals before such general acquiescence, the corporate standing of the community can be no longer open to question. . . .' [Emphasis added.]

Thus, the Court declined to upset the organization of a governmental unit ten years after the fact.

The third question is whether constitutional rights have been violated. The Michigan Supreme Court, in Midland Township v State Boundary Commission, 401 Mich 641, 664; 259 NW2d 326, 337 (1977), appeal dismissed, 435 US 1004 (1978), has stated that there are no constitutional rights in the boundaries of governmental units:

'[No] city, village, township or person has any vested right or legally protected interest in the boundaries of such governmental units. The Legislature is free to change city, village and township boundaries at will. . . .'

It is also evident from the records made available to me that the portion of Greenfield Township proposed to be annexed by the ballot proposal of April 6, 1925, which also included portions of the Townships of Dearborn and Redford, was not annexed by the election on that date, having been rejected by the Greenfield Township voters living in that area.

Accordingly, it is my opinion that no constitutional rights are implicated in this matter.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

[ Previous Page]  [ Home Page ]