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3 Common Public Road Issues in Michigan Townships

March 2019

In 1930, counties were given complete jurisdiction over most public roads. As a result, township personnel cannot simply decide to build a road wherever they wish. There are laws and regulations in place, which is why townships constantly deal with public road issues.Township personnel can recognize the need for new roads, or even better roads. But, there are many obstacles they must overcome to make it happen. These are the three most common public road issues township officials constantly battle.

1. Getting Rid of Old Roads

Many roads exist solely on paper, and often conflict with existing buildings or improvements. If the township wishes to eliminate them, it might require a court action naming neighboring property owners and several state and local agencies. As one may imagine, this process takes time. 

2. Creating New Roads

Roads can also be created through condemnation, by a plat, through public dedication, or even from simple use over time. Utilities, telecommunication companies, and others have various rights to place their facilities in the right of way of existing roads, which townships have constitutional control over. 

Any new roads a township would like to add may be subject to a township planning commission review. This is because there are strict specifications on where a road can be built and environmental factors affecting the roads right of way. For example, roads terminating at a body of water are generally public access points to that water way. With Michigan’s landscape, this can place many barriers in the way of getting new public roads. 

Roads are also presumed to extend 33 feet on each side of the road’s centerline, which is the public right of way. If a new road is approved, it can be financed through millages, special assessments, township general funds, and county and state grants and funds. 

3. Dealing with Abandoned Roads 

There are many roads that are completely abandoned or no longer in use, but nothing is ever done with them. Why? The standards for abandonments are difficult to satisfy. Townships can vacate roads under the Land Division Act by court order, and the land under a vacated road is divided among neighboring properties. 

To learn more, join Fahey Schultz Burzych Rhodes member William K. Fahey, for Common Public Road Issues Tuesday, April 2nd, 2019 at 10:15 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at the 2019 Michigan Township Association Conference in Grand Rapids, Michigan. 

 


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