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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. 5968

August 28, 1981


Referendum on township ordinance or amendment


Townships--referendum on ordinance or amendment

Township residents who fail to file timely referendum petitions containing sufficient signatures are without a remedy to compel the holding of the referendum election.

Honorable Thomas Guastello

State Senator

The Capitol

Lansing, Michigan

You have requested my opinion on the following matter:

Residents of a township desired to petition for a referendum on an amendment to the township zoning ordinance. A township official other than the township clerk informed the residents they needed signatures equal to 8% of the Governor's primary vote, totalling 119. The residents then turned in petitions containing 141 signatures within the time period allowed. While validating the petitions the township clerk determined that 350 signatures were needed or 8% of the Governor's general election vote, not the primary. The clerk stated that nothing could be done. What recourse do the residents have in regard to the referendum?

The Township Rural Zoning Act, 1943 PA 184, Sec. 14, as amended by 1978 PA 637; MCLA 125.284; MSA 5.2963(14), provides for the amendment of a zoning ordinance in the same manner as for the enactment of the original ordinance.

1943 PA 184, Sec. 12, as amended by 1978 PA 637; MCLA 125.282; MSA 5.2963(12), sets forth the requirements for securing a referendum upon a zoning ordinance or an amendment thereof adopted by a township board. See Stadle v Battle Creek Township, 346 Mich 64; 77 NW2d 329 (1956), Reva v Portage Township, 356 Mich 381; 96 NW2d 778 (1959), and OAG, 1979-1980, No 5541, p 344 (August 14, 1979). In pertinent part, 1943 PA 184 Sec. 12, supra, states:

'Within 30 days following the passage of the zoning ordinance, a petition signed by a number of qualified and registered voters residing in the portion of the township outside the limits of cities and villages equal to not less than 8% of the total vote cast for all candidates for governor, at the last preceding general election at which a governor was elected, in the township may be filed with the township clerk requesting the submission of an ordinance or part of an ordinance to the electors residing in the portion of the township outside the limits of cities and villages for their approval. . . .' [Emphasis added.]

Based on the determination of the township clerk as to the requirements of the Township Rural Zoning Act, 1943 PA 184, Sec. 12, supra, township residents submitted petitions with an insufficient number of signatures needed to bring the rezoning ordinance or amendment to a referendum vote of the township electors. One signature less than the required number is sufficient to prevent the submission of the ordinance to the electors. Chateau Estates v Sudau, 25 Mich App 351; 181 NW2d 320 (1970).

Regardless of the number of signatures the township residents were told were necessary by the particular township official, the requirements of 1943 PA 184, Sec. 12, supra, still had to be met. The township residents are on notice of the requirements of 1943 PA 184, Sec. 12, supra.

A township official does not have the authority to modify the requirements of the statute. RS 1846, C. 16; MCLA 41.1 et seq; MSA 5.1 et seq. 'The extent of the authority of an officer is measured by the statute from which he derives his authority, and not by his own acts and assumption of authority. . . .' 18 Michigan Law and Practice, Officers, Sec. 15, p 232. See also Mason County Civic Research Council v Mason County, 343 Mich 313; 72 NW2d 292 (1955); Lake Township Macomb County v Millar, 257 Mich 135; 241 NW 237 (1932); and OAG, 1937-1938, p 358 (November 1, 1937). 1937).

It is my opinion, therefore, that since the township residents did not submit petitions containing sufficient signers as required by 1943 PA 184, Sec. 12, supra, the township residents are without a remedy to compel the holding of the referendum election.

Frank J. Kelley

Attorney General

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