Municipal Law

Municipal law includes aspects of many other areas of law.  A city attorney handles real estate, administrative law, constitutional law, contracts, and many other matters.  As the same issues arise in townships and counties, Ms. Marty's city experience carries over well.  Below, we have prepared a short summary of matters we have handled in the past.  Please call us if you would like more information, or if you have a similar or different matter with which we could help you.

Administrative hearings - Conduct administrative hearings upon request.  Have handled more than 80 hearings for a dozen cities and a housing authority on matters including:

  • dangerous dog determinations
  • employment termination
  • fire code violation
  • liquor license suspensions
  • nuisance, fire hazard abatement
  • relocation assistance appeals
  • rental assistance (Section 8 housing) appeals
  • rental license suspensions
  • sign amortization appeals
  • storm water discharge nuisance
  • tobacco license suspension
  • wetland delineation
  • zoning and property maintenance appeal

Annexation - Assisted city in preparing proper documents and following statutory process to annex property when all property owners had petitioned for annexation.  Handled annexation of property owned by unknown individuals.  Prepared orderly annexation agreements between city and townships to govern taxation and timing issues for annexation.  In another county, managed to strike down an orderly annexation agreement that was being used to prohibit land development.

Charters - Worked with charter commissions and cities regarding charter language.  Drafted amendments to city charters.

Condemnation of dangerous or nuisance buildings
- Worked to preserve structures that city sought to demolish, when property owner was in the process of repairing the building and simply needed additional time.  When worked for cities, obtained demolition order to take down dangerous structure.

Elections - Determined legality of placing nicknames on ballot.  Oversaw re-count in a close election.

Eminent domain - Represented property owners to make sure they were adequately compensated when city condemned their property.  When worked for cities, condemned property when needed for city streets and improvement projects.

Employment - Investigated allegations of misconduct of top city officials.  Hear appeal of public employee’s termination.  When working for cities, completely rewrote personnel handbook and assisted city through two staff reorganizations..

Fees - Challenged excessive fees being imposed by cities on developers.  Won court case stopping city from imposing fees in excess of the amount in a development agreement.  When working for cities, revised fee schedules to recoup more costs; won “double-taxation” case where a business claimed it paid taxes on its taxes.

Negligence - Pursued claims against cities for misrepresentations by city staff.

Nuisance property issues
- Investigated legality of city entry onto private property and “clean up” of the property.  Have mediated city cases where property owner kept an excessive amount of “junk” in their yard.

Open meeting law - Researched which meetings and whose meetings are open to the public.

Ordinance drafting and interpretation - Drafted and interpreted ordinances of every kind.  Know which provisions are typical in ordinances, and which may be in violation of state law or unconstitutional.

Special assessments - Appealed excessive and unfair special assessments.  When working for cities, revised special assessment policies to reflect statutory limits on assessment amounts.  Also defended against special assessment appeals.

Streets - Drafted and interpreted access restrictions from lots to streets.  Have helped cities acquire property through plat dedication, common law dedication, and by easement or deed.

Vacations - Reviewed land title documents to determine who owns vacated streets, alleys, and platted lots.  When working for cities, reviewed numerous proposed vacations of streets and alleys.

Zoning - Handled all kinds of land use issues, including conditional use permits, permitted uses, accessory uses, maximum lot coverage issues, nonconforming uses, variances, and interpretation of “similar use” provisions.  When working for cities, was involved in complete revisions of zoning ordinances and subdivision regulations.  Wrote a city’s first floodplain ordinance, carefully tailored to apply retroactively to a business district.  Completely revised sign ordinances.  See the Land Use Law case examples for more information.

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