Planning Commissioners Profile

Asked September 25, 2014, 8:19 AM EDT

In our community (Holland Township), a new Love's Truck Stop has been initially approved by our Township Planning commission as "permitted by right" as it's zoned "C-3, Highway Commercial". Our "C-3, Highway Commercial" description on municode.com does not allow for Travel Centers and about 200 residents have filed a lawsuit against the Township. We have asked and are being denied any information related to the backgrounds of individuals on our Township Planning Commission. Are Townships required to provide information on the people appointed to their Planning Commission / Zoning Board of Appeals? We are only asking for their primary employers name and their title/role?

Ottawa County Michigan

1 Response

The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requires governments to provide records that are requested if they are in their possession (they have a record of it) as long as the records requested don't meet one of the exceptions stated in the law. Therefore, if you file a freedom of information request with the township asking for this specific information and it is determined that it does not meet one of the exceptions and they have a record of it than they must give it to you. However, the township may not be in possession of such records. Unless that information is part of some application process that the members had to fill out, or contained in minutes of a meeting it is possible that they may not have ever had this data. If you plan to complete a FOIA request you should try to be as specific as possible in your request such as requesting planning commission appointee applications or a specific time frame of meeting minutes. For example asking for all minutes of the planning commission is not a reasonable request but asking for a specific time frame of minutes (like December 2013 - March 2014) would be.
The freedom of information act can be found here: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?mcl-act-442-of-1976
I would recommend you request a copy of the township's FOIA policy so that you can file a proper request in the format the township prefers. In addition, you may want to request a copy of the planning commission and ZBA bylaws. There may be a description of the roles of members and describe from what sector of the community the members are supposed to represent.
I recommend you ask the attorney representing your case for further advice in this matter.
Julie Pioch - piochj@msu.edu