A Slippery Slope in Rochester Hills – Government Overreach Condoned

Below is Don’t Drill the Hills (DDHI) response to Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander recent decision that their claims made against the City of Rochester Hills are without merit. 

Click on the link to read Judge Alexander’s November 4, 2014 ruling.

A statement from DDHI counsel, Tim Lozen follows this press release.

Don’t Drill the Hills, Inc (DDHI) is deeply disappointed that Oakland County Circuit Court Judge James Alexander denied Rochester Hills residents the right to vote on our parks regarding the oil/gas lease and pipeline easement of our parks. The case was brought forward by DDHI, a bi-partisan grass-roots community organization of concerned residents who strongly believe Rochester Hills Mayor Bryan Barnett and City Council violated a 2011 Charter Amendment put in place to protect parks for conservation and recreation. At issue is a resident-driven 2011 City Charter Amendment which states that City-owned parks cannot be sold, leased, or converted to a non-recreation or non-conservation use without approval of the City’s voters in an open election. DDHI continues to assert that the City Charter applies to the entire park property, not just the surface but also the subsurface.

For the past 11 months, Rochester Hills Mayor and City Council have ignored and dismissed emails, phone calls, resident arranged meetings, and public comments at City Council meetings asking Council and the Mayor to reconsider their actions.

Today’s wrongheaded judicial decision condones outrageous local government overreach. Judge Alexander’s decision today:

  • Grants sole discretion to City Council to interpret the charter as to whether the charter applies to this lease and potentially other leases, sales, or conversions – with no recourse for residents.
  • Denies Rochester Hills citizens the right to legally enforce our charter, and denies citizens the right to sue to enforce their own charter.
  • Denied Rochester Hills citizens the right to vote.

DDHI members fully intend to press ahead on the battle to restore our voice in government.

Don’t Drill the Hills, Inc. is a non-partisan grassroots nonprofit corporation that is building awareness of the risks of horizontal drilling in high-density residential and K-12 School areas. Concerns include: property rights, property values, mortgage and insurance complications, as well as potential environmental and health risks.

Statement from DDHI counsel Tim Lozen:

As the attorney for the Rochester Hills based citizen’s organization, Don’t Drill the Hills, Inc (DDH), I am deeply disappointed in the Court’s ruling that Rochester Hills voters do not have the right to vote on the City’s sale of the Oil and Gas development rights to City parklands even though the City voters overwhelming approved a recent charter amendment that prohibited selling, leasing or transferring City parkland without voter approval.  It is cruelly ironic that the court released its decision on election day.

Preliminarily it appears that the Court’s ruling hinged on its finding that “no actual controversy exists” in the face of the raging controversy over whether oil and gas drilling and production is appropriate in urban areas and whether City parkland should be used to support such efforts.  The ruling also hinged on the Court’s finding that Rochester Hills voters have no “standing” to enforce their right under the City Charter to vote on sales or leases of City parkland, even though the Charter expressly provides that voter approval is required for sales, leases and transfers of City owned parkland.  For the above reasons, the Court Dismissed the case in its entirety.

Over the next couple of weeks DDH will meet to review the details of the decision to decide whether to  appeal the ruling to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Timothy J. Lozen, Esq. Lozen, Kovar & Lozen, P.C.

About Sarah Hovis

Freelance wordsmith, arts appreciator, grammar geek, sports spectator, stationery snob, and world traveler, Sarah charts her own course as the owner of saliho creative. She uses her creative mind and engaging dialogue to fearlessly bring the written word to life in print and online… all while keeping a watchful eye out for the next literary adventure. You can reach her at sarah@rochestermedia.com.

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