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) STATE OF MICHIGAN
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM, ATTORNEY GENERAL
Location of Leelanau County seat
The Leelanau County seat is at the unincorporated village of Leland and is not at the Township of Leland.
Opinion No. 7015
May 4, 1999
Honorable George A. McManus, Jr.
Lansing, MI 48909
Honorable Jason Allen
Lansing, MI 48909
You have asked whether the Leelanau County seat is at the unincorporated village of Leland or at the Township of Leland.
A primary source document on the history of each Michigan county is the County Record Books maintained by the Office of the Great Seal, Michigan Department of State. According to the Leelanau County Record Book, p 97, the unincorporated village of Leland is, and has been since 1874, situated in what is known as Leland Township. Michigan Public Acts, 1875, Appendix, pp 336-337.
While the unincorporated village of Leland and Leland Township share a common name, a review of relevant public records demonstrates that the Leelanau County seat is at the unincorporated village of Leland. The Leelanau County Record Book, p 271, reports that "in 1883 the county seat was changed from Northport to Leeland." The 1997-1998 Michigan Manual, p 754, describes "Leland" as being the county seat. Since Northport did not become an incorporated village until 1903, the change in the county seat to Leland in 1883 involved two unincorporated villages. Leelanau County Record Book, p 215, Michigan Local Acts, 1903, Appendix, 941, and 1979-1980 Michigan Manual, p 474.
The change of the Leelanau County seat from Northport to Leland is reported in issues of the local newspaper, the Leelanau Enterprise (LE), published in Northport until January 1883, at which time this newspaper business also moved to Leland. On October 13, 1881, at the annual meeting of the Leelanau County Board of Supervisors, "Leland" received 7 out of 10 votes as the proposed site for the county seat. Other votes were for Northport, Suttons Bay, and Maple City. LE, October 27, 1881, p 3. It was then determined that the question be presented to the voters at the annual township meetings in April of 1882. Id. On March 2, 1882, notice of the April 3, 1882, election on removal of the county seat to "Leland" was published, reciting that the question was to be submitted "to the electors of said County at the next annual township meeting in the several towns of said County." Id. at p 2. At the same time, a bond in the amount of $5,000 was published relating to assurances given by a group of citizens that "Leland Township" would provide suitable buildings, free of cost to the county, and noting that the county seat was to be removed "to the village of Leland." Id. p 2. On May 13, 1882, the Leelanau County Board of Supervisors declared the vote to be 635 to 517 in favor of removing the county seat to "Leland," effective on January 1, 1883. Minutes of May 13, 1882, board meeting, p 169. On January 9, 1883, the Leelanau County Board of Supervisors held its first meeting in the county clerk's office in the village of Leland. Id. at p 176.
Local newspaper descriptions of the Leelanau County seat portray a specific settlement by the name of "Leland," not the large and undefined "Township of Leland":
Leland the new county seat is situated at the outlet of this lake [now called Lake Leelanau] and it is a point destined in the near future to become of interest in a commercial point of view, being the natural outlet to a large area of territory.
LE, December 14, 1882, p 3. (Emphasis added.)
Leland, the present county seat of Leelanau county, contains three large general stores, one drug store, three boarding houses, an iron furnace, a saloon, telegraph and post-office and a printing office. It possesses also 3 churches, a school house in which good schools are taught . . . .
LE, January 18, 1883, p 3. (Emphasis added.)
Leland, the new county seat of Leelanau county, situated at the mouth of Carp River on the shore of lake Michigan near the northern terminus of the Leelanau peninsula, is most advantageously situated for the establishment of any industry which requires the use of hard timber; there are inexhaustable supplies of elm, maple, beech, ash and ironwood in close proximity, with excellent facilities for transportation.
LE, March 22, 1883, p 3. (Emphasis added.)
In light of the foregoing public records and newspaper reports, it is apparent that in 1882, Leelanau County voters had a specific location in mind, namely the unincorporated village of Leland, when they approved "Leland" as the county seat, and not the larger, more general area known as Leland Township. In Attorney General v Iron County Bd of Canvassers, 64 Mich 607, 610-611; 31 NW 539 (1887), the court concluded that the voters, in selecting a county seat, could reasonably be understood to be choosing a specific "settlement" rather than large and indefinite territory:
They also claim that no legal ballots were cast for the place which received the majority of all the votes cast at the election, which were for "Crystal Falls," because there is such a township of large dimensions, and no definite place named within it. . . .
Neither is there any difficulty in holding that the vote for "Crystal Falls" means the settlement of that name. The law does not require the county-seat to be on a particular village or city lot or square, although there have been some instances of that kind; and it cannot be presumed that, as between a large territory and a fixed settlement, the location was meant to be at large and not definite.
While the circumstance of Leelanau County voters selecting an unincorporated village as a county seat is not common, I note that the county seat of Keweenaw County is at the unincorporated village of Eagle River (1997-1998 Michigan Manual, p 753), the county seat of Montmorency County is at the unincorporated village of Atlanta (Id. at p 757), and the county seat of Oscoda County is at the unincorporated village of Mio (Id. at p 759).
It is my opinion, therefore, that the Leelanau County seat is at the unincorporated village of Leland and is not at the Township of Leland.
JENNIFER M. GRANHOLM
STATE OF MICHIGAN