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Proposal for Michigan apartment complex sparks dispute

The city of Houghton, Michigan, is finding itself on the defending end of an allegation that it violated the Open Meetings Act with regard to a proposal for the development of an apartment complex. The hearing was held on April 29 in Houghton County Circuit Court.

The suit, brought against the city by Houghton landlords, claims that a meeting where three City Council members voted against a rezoning request should have been open to the public. The meeting allegedly involved only the city manager, a city attorney and three of the city council members. When the council voted on the issues two months later, however, the vote was 5-0 in favor of the rezoning.

The plaintiffs' attorney argued that the voting process was a "fiasco" and that it was not made clear what exactly was being voted on. The city, however, claimed that to qualify as a violation of the Open Meetings Act, the meeting would have had to have had four members present to represent a full quorom of the council. The city has filed a motion asking the court to dismiss the suit.

The rezoning request was part of a proposal for an apartment complex that was planned for Good Will Farm's former location and meant that the zoning would need to be changed from residential to business. Whether the apartment complex gets the official go ahead may be dependent on the outcome of the suit. The judge had not yet made a ruling in this case, but when the case is decided, it will likely impact future litigation involving rezoning issues or zoning variances.

Source: The Daily Mining Gazette, "City Sued: Landlord takes Houghton to court over Open Meetings Act" Garrett Neese, Apr. 30, 2014

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