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 MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL
STATE OF MICHIGAN
MIKE COX, ATTORNEY GENERAL
LAND DIVISION ACT:
Application of Land Division Act to municipalities
A municipality is not subject to the platting requirements of the Land Division Act that apply to proprietors.
Opinion No. 7145
December 15, 2003
Honorable Tom Casperson
Lansing, Michigan 48909
You have asked whether a municipality is subject to the platting requirements of the Land Division Act that apply to proprietors.
Your question involves the City of Kingsford. You indicate that the City of Kingsford owns tracts of unplatted land zoned for commercial and industrial use, which the city divides and sells as a means of promoting development within its city limits.
The Land Division Act (Act), 1967 PA 288,1 MCL 560.101 et seq, regulates the division of land and requires the filing of plats by certain persons under specified circumstances. OAG, 1997-1998, No 6989, p 164 (August 11, 1998). A proprietor who subdivides land is subject to the platting requirements of the Land Division Act. MCL 560.103(1). Section 102(f) of the Act defines the terms "subdivide" and "subdivision":
"Subdivide" or "subdivision" means the partitioning or splitting of a parcel or tract of land by the proprietor thereof or by his or her heirs, executors, administrators, legal representatives, successors, or assigns for the purpose of sale, or lease of more that 1 year, or of building development that results in 1 or more parcels of less that 40 acres or the equivalent, and that is not exempted from the platting requirements of this act by sections 108 and 109. [MCL 560.102(f); emphasis added.]
Section 111(1) of the Act requires "proprietors" to make preliminary plats and submit copies to the authorities specified in the Act. MCL 560.111(l). The Act also requires "proprietors" to obtain surveys and final approvals of the preliminary plats. MCL 560.131. "Proprietor" is defined in the Act as "a natural person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, or combination of any of them that holds an ownership interest in land whether recorded or not." MCL 560.102(o). Thus, the question is whether a municipality is a "proprietor" within the meaning of the Act. The foremost rule of statutory construction is to effectuate the intent of the Legislature. Stanton v City of Battle Creek, 466 Mich 611, 615; 647 NW2d 508 (2002).
Your question was addressed in OAG, 1977-1978, No 5391, p 684 (November 17, 1978), which concluded that the Legislature did not intend to include a "municipality" within the definition of "proprietor" in 1967 PA 288, then known as the Subdivision Control Act. I have examined that opinion, as well as relevant cases and statutory authority, and reach the same conclusion.
An examination of the history of three related acts - the Plat Act of 1929, 1929 PA 172, formerly MCL 560.1 et seq; the Subdivision Control Act; and the Municipal Blighted Area Rehabilitation Act, 1945 PA 344, MCL 125.71 et seq - is instructive in determining the intent of the Legislature in 1929 and of succeeding Legislatures, and confirms their understanding that the term "proprietor" as defined by the Subdivision Control Act and the prior Plat Act did not include any city, village, or township.
The Plat Act of 1929 was the predecessor to the Subdivision Control Act. It defined "proprietor" as "either a natural person, firm, association, partnership, corporation or a combination of any of them." Plat Act of 1929, section 2. Section 4 of the Plat Act of 1929 provided:
Whenever any land in this state shall be platted into lots or blocks, the proprietor thereof shall cause a survey and three true plats thereof to be made by a registered civil engineer or surveyor.
In 1945, the Legislature adopted the Municipal Blighted Area Rehabilitation Act, which permits municipalities (including cities, villages, and townships, as well as counties) to rehabilitate blighted areas within their political boundaries. MCL 125.72(b). In 1959, the Legislature added section 5a to this act to permit municipalities, under certain circumstances, to plat or replat an area by means of an urban renewal plat. With respect to these urban renewal plats, section 5a requires that:
The plat shall be prepared, approved and recorded as provided in Act No. 172 of the Public Acts of 1929, as amended, [the Plat Act] being sections 560.1 to 560.80 of the Compiled Laws of 1948 . . . . [MCL 125.75a.]
Section 13 of the Plat Act required that the proprietor, i.e., the person holding title to the lands being platted, execute the plat dedication. Consistent with its understanding that the term "proprietor" did not include cities, villages, or townships (or counties), the Legislature in section 5a of the Municipal Blighted Area Rehabilitation Act further specifies:
[I]n lieu of the signature of the proprietor of the land the dedication shall be signed by the director of urban renewal or by the administrative officer of the
municipality . . . . [MCL 125.75a.]
This history clearly demonstrates that the term "proprietor" and the requirements imposed on proprietors under the Plat Act of 1929, itself, did not apply to a city, village, or township.
In 1967, the Legislature enacted the Subdivision Control Act repealing the prior Plat Act. In the Subdivision Control Act, the Legislature again defines the term "proprietor" using these words:
"Proprietor" means a natural person, firm, association, partnership, corporation, or combination of any of them that holds an ownership interest in land whether recorded or not. [MCL 560.102(o).]
Comparison of the text of this definition with the definition in the prior Plat Act discloses no meaningful difference. In requiring the platting of land, the Subdivision Control Act (now named the Land Division Act) imposes upon "proprietor[s]" the requirement for submitting, obtaining approval of, and recording a plat. The Legislature, consistent with a reading of the term "proprietor" as not including a city, village, or township, continued in subsection 103(4) of the Subdivision Control Act the requirement that urban renewal plats made by municipalities be subject to platting requirements:
Urban renewal plats authorized by the governing body of a municipality as provided in Act No. 344 of the Public Acts of 1945, as amended, [the Municipal Blighted Area Rehabilitation Act] being sections 125.71 to 125.83 of the Compiled Laws of 1948, shall conform to this act. [MCL 560.103(4).]
Thus, the statutory provisions relevant to your question have remained essentially the same since 1978 when OAG No 5391 was issued and support the same conclusion reached there. Review of case law decided since that opinion issued, however, discloses one case requiring further consideration to determine whether a different conclusion is now warranted.
In Capital Region Airport Authority v DeWitt Charter Twp, 236 Mich App 576; 601 NW2d 141 (1999), the Court of Appeals addressed whether the Capital Region Airport Authority created pursuant to the Airport Authorities Act, MCL 259.801 et seq, was obligated to comply with the Land Division Act. Noting that "[p]roprietors who wish to divide or subdivide land must obtain local government approval," the Court found no indication in the Land Division Act that the Legislature intended the lands of an airport authority to be exempt. The Court rejected the airport authority's argument that it was not a "proprietor," reasoning that an airport authority is a "corporation" within the Land Division Act's definition of "proprietor." 236 Mich App at 596-597.
The Capital Region case is distinguishable from the issue presented in your request and does not warrant any modification of the conclusion reached in OAG 5391. In particular, your question asks whether a city, village, or township is subject to the platting requirements of the Act. These municipalities are distinguishable from the airport authority in Capital Region.
The airport authority at issue in Capital Region is more akin to the entity at issue in OAG, 1997-1998, No 6989, p 164 (August 11, 1998). OAG 6989 examined the question of whether a building authority incorporated under the Building Authorities Act was exempt from the requirements of the Land Division Act pertaining to proprietors. Noting that nothing in the Land Division Act's definition of the term "proprietor" suggested that the Legislature intended to exclude from its meaning a building authority, the opinion concluded that an incorporated building authority was subject to the Land Division Act's requirements. OAG No 6989 at p 165.2
It is my opinion, therefore, that a municipality is not subject to the
platting requirements of the Land Division Act that apply to proprietors.
1 The Land Division Act was formerly known as the
Subdivision Control Act of 1967, having been renamed in 1996 PA 591, MCL
2Neither the Capital Region case nor OAG 6989 appears to have addressed the case of Advisory Opinion re Constitutionality of PA 1966, No 346, 380 Mich 554; 158 NW2d 416 (1967). In that case, the Michigan Supreme Court observed that the Legislature has the authority to "give corporate capacity to certain agencies in the administration of civil government," but in doing so "create neither private corporations nor municipal corporations." Such "quasi corporations" are "specific and supplemental governmental agencies designed to function in a limited sphere in the accomplishment of public purposes." 380 Mich at 568, quoting Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority v Bds of Supervisors of Five Counties, 300 Mich 1, 20; 1 NW2d 430 (1942). "The grant of corporate powers to such an agency make it a quasi corporation only." 380 Mich at 575. This opinion does not address whether the result in either Capital Region or OAG 6989 would have been different had this case been examined.