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Meade Township Referendum legal challenge - letter

A petition signed by more than 120 people was submitted to Meade Township's clerk seeking a vote on whether areas in the township should be found suitable for wind energy development. The township clerk insisted the wording on the petition was inadequate, thus no ballot vote would happen. The deadline for submitting a petition has now passed. This letter, prepared by Attorney Joshua Nolan, explains Michigan's law on petitions and argues that the town clerk's decision to disqualify the petition was not lawful. A portion of the letter is posted below. The full letter can be accessed by clicking the link on this page.

Florence Penfold
Meade Township Clerk
4399 Barrie Rd.
Kinde, MI 48445-9731

John Ferris, Esq
237 E. Huron Ave
Bad Axe, MI 48413

RE: Meade Township Referendum

Dear Mr. Ferris and Ms. Penfold:

I am writing in regard to the December 17, 2014 correspondence that Ms. Penfold sent to my client, Rita Parsh, purportedly finding the Referendum Petitions submitted by Ms, Parsch to be “inadequate” and refusing to submit Meade Township Resolution 2014-3, Wind Energy Overlay District to the electors for their approval or rejection.

Notably, this correspondence to Ms. Parsch contains no explanation whatsoever for the basis of Penfold’s purported finding that the petitions are inadequate. It is my understanding that Ms. Parsch contacted Ms. Penfold via telephone to try to determine the basis for her finding. Ms. Penfold refused o provide an explanation, and curiously, instead instructed Mrs. Parsch to talk to the Mead Township Supervisor to identify the basis of Ms, Penfold’s finding as the Meade Township Clerk.

Issuing a declaration that the petitions are “inadequate” without explanation is unlawful. Such conduct is essentially the definition of arbitrary and capricious. A Township Clerk may not simply declare petitions invalid and refuse to explain the basis of such a finding. "Because I said so” simply isn’t good enough. Therefore, I respectfully request that Ms. Penfold identify the basis for her purported finding with specificity in writing.

Although Ms. Penfold has refused to explain the basis of her decision to Me. Parsch, she apparently decided to reveal the basis of her decision to the Huron Daily Tribune, Ms. Penfold indicated that the petitions were inadequate because “[i]t didn’t tell the voter exactly what they were voting for.” Furthermore, Mr. Ferris, purportedly informed that newspaper that “it did not pose a yes or no question that voters may see on the ballot.” However, as I am sure that Mr. Ferris is well aware, it is the obligation of the Township Board to create the language that will appear on the ballot, not the party circulating the petition.

It is well settled that, “the amendment of the zoning ordinance, including an amendment of the text of the ordinance and amendment of the zoning map (generally referred to as a rezoning), represents legislative action.” Regardless of the label used, the altering of the Meade Township Zoning map to create a new classification of land use (Wind Energy Overlay District) constitutes an amendment of the Meade Township Zoning Ordinance and is therefore controlled by the previsions of the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act, MCL 125.3101, et. Seq. Pursuant to MCL 125.3401(1), “[a]mendments or supplements to the zoning ordinance shall be adopted in the same manner as provided under this act for the adoption of the original ordinance.”

Pursuant to the plain language of MCL 125.3402(3)(c), it is the Township Board’s obligation to create the language for the ballot, not the party submitting the petitions. Since Mr. Ferris helped prepare the ballot language for Brookfield Township in Huron County when referendum petitions were submitted to overturn the Brookfield Township Board’s attempt to repeal their zoning ordinance, I am confident that he understands this obligation. 

...

Please be advised that failure to certify these petitions and schedule the election will result in litigation being initiated against Meade Township to obtain a Writ of Mandamus. Furthermore, if Ms. Parsch is forced to initiate litigation, she may choose to bring claims against Meade Township for violation of the Michigan Freedom of Information Act, Michigan Open Meetings Act, as well as 43 USC 1983. In the event, Ms. Parsch will seek to recover all actual and punitive damages due her, as well as attorney’s fees incurred in prosecuting this action against Meade Township. Ms. Parsch has no desire to initiate litigation against her own township, but she will take whatever actions are required to protect the rights of Meade Township citizens to a referendum election on the Wind Energy Overlay District.

I look forward to your prompt written response.

Sincerely,

NOLAN LAW, LLC

Joshua J. Nolan 

Parsch_-_letter_to_clerk_-_adequacy_of_petitions_thumb
Parsch Letter To Clerk Adequacy Of Petitions

Download file (2.08 MB) pdf

DEC 22 2014
http://www.windaction.org/posts/42056-meade-township-referendum-legal-challenge-letter
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