Rochester Hills Residents Seek Ballot Proposal to Protect Parks

A coalition of Rochester Hills homeowner associations will mount a petition drive aimed at getting a proposal on the November ballot to amend the city charter to protect parks from inappropriate development.

The residents formally asked city council Monday to put the measure on the ballot so they wouldn’t have to gather signatures. After several hours of debate, council voted to refer the matter to a committee to work on ballot language. The committee will include three residents, up to three councilmen, three administrators and the city attorney. Council voted to schedule a public hearing on the matter for its next meeting, July 18.

Time is short because of the lead time required to get state approval of the ballot language and print ballots. An earlier motion, to approve the language drafted by the residents and vetted by the city attorney, failed 4-2. (Councilmen James Rosen and Ravi Yalamanchi supported the motion;Michael Webber was absent.)

After the meeting, the homeowners’ leadership met and decided they have no choice but to go for the petition drive.

“The nucleus of the group sponsoring the amendment met immediately afterward and came to the only logical conclusion – there has to be a petition drive to assure that the amendment gets before the electorate,”Gary Uhl, president of the Bridgeman Farms Homeowners Association, said in an e-mail. “In the interim, we will work in good faith to see that the language on the ballot is in the interest of all invested parties. Unfortunately, it’s like I said that this puts us all between a rock and a hard place. We want to work collaboratively, but the clock is ticking.”

The ballot proposal springs from the city’s recent plan to build a water reservoir in an undeveloped park next to Adams High School. The reservoir was eventually dropped after considerable opposition from neighboring residents.

There have been other times when the city eyed its own parks for development, including a Lifetime Fitness proposal, retention ponds and an indoor soccer facility. The proposed language would allow development unrelated to normal park uses, but only with voter approval.

“The intent of this charter amendment is to preserve city-owned park and open space for recreation, environmental preservation … but still provide an avenue for changes if the voters approve,” said Susan Bowyer of the Cumberland Hills Homeowners Association.

But Mayor Bryan Barnett said the ballot proposal, if not worded properly, could harm some existing operations in city parks, such as Pine Trace golf course and the velodrome, both of which are on city land but privately operated.

 “I think we’re all on the same page and I would say we’re at a critical point,” Barnett said.“The devil is in the details and right now the details seem a little loose.”

Parks and Forestry Director Mike Hartner, while basking in the glow of so much affection for the city’s parks, agreed with the mayor. He said the city never could have afforded to build the golf course on its own.

“But we found someone who would build a very nice golf course. And it met a recreational need,” he said. “So if this wording can be tweaked a little bit to make sure that can happen in the future, I’m all for it.”

Councilman Nathan Klomp said his fear is unintended consequences.

“I don’t know how we get there, but I want you to know that I’m all in favor of the conversation,” he said. “There seems to be a whole lot of complication to this. … How do we clean it up and, at the same time, how do we turn to the residents and in a few breaths say what it is?”

By Annette Kingsbury

Comments

  1. Lest not forget the City Council caused this problem when they tried to put Water Towers on Parkland. There big solution to the citizens request for a a vote, is to create a committee of 9 to study it a month and then have a public hearing. How laughable…..

    At least this group was smart enough to recognize they better take things in their own hands. Hopefully they will follow through this November and break up the Mayors majority on council. Both Webber and candidate Kochenderfer are just two more rubber stamps to keep the 4-2 votes rolling for four mpre years.

    We deserve better

  2. Scot Beaton says

    Congratulations
    Susan Bowyer, Steve McGarry and Gary Uhl on your hard work and efforts that led up to the discussion last Monday night. Speaking as a former member of the Rochester Hills City Council… In principle and as a general rule I do not support charter amendments. I like to think of our city charter as our constitution written by our city founders…charter amendments should be rare occasions. But unfortunately there comes a time when the wisdom of our local government can’t be trusted and our citizens need to take control of the situation and charter amendments can accomplish those goals. We have had a decade of local government poor decisions… and last year’s proposal to build a 3 story 150 foot in diameter concrete water tank in a small undeveloped park north of Tienken was the icing on the cake of local government poor decisions on the part of our Mayor and the majority of City Council. We are a city blessed with residents who know how to get involved… and a big thanks to Susan Bowyer, Steve McGarry and Gary Uhl for all your hard work. Let’s sincerely hope they and the city administration can come up with a charter amendment by the July 18th meeting that will permanently protect our parks and open space from stupidity.

    Fuel for thought…. what a concept… let’s finish our park system… For starters lets reduce the cost of our city’s assessing needs turn that service over to the County and free up about $700.000.00 (general fund dollars) that we could put towards a bond and actually finish our parks system in Rochester Hills. $700.000.00 per year would allow us to borrow up to… about $10,000,000.00 and with federal and state grants turn that dollar amount into $20,000,000.00+ to invest, build, finish the park system over the next four years without a millage increase or a vote of the residents. Parks and Forestry Director Mike Hartner has stated time and time again we need more ball fields more soccer fields; that we could use as a new revenue source to pay for the maintenance of our park system. Finish Riverbend Park, Nowicki Park and finish Tienken Park, and make Adams Rd. a “Complete Street” to connect all three of them. We can do this… residents of Rochester Hills this is the legacy we could leave our children to inherit… this is the right thing to do to improve all our home values. This concept deserves an open and transparent discussion at a City Council level. P.S. The Empire State Building; the building was actually completed ahead of schedule, taking only one year and 45 days to build. , the building was officially opened on May 1, 1931… why has it taken over 15 years to do anything with Riverbend Park?

    note:Estimated cost for the Rochester Hills Assessing Department is $1,220.020 for FY 2011. $87,000 City of Rochester assessing needs “The City’s cost to contract with the County Assessor’s office is $87,000. Beyond that there is minor related cost for City employees to coordinate with the County.” Jaymes Vettraino City Manager. $120,000 Oakland Township assessing needs “We pay Oakland County Equalization $15.90 per real parcel, and $12.40 for each personal property description taxed in the Township. We pay a total of just under $120,000 per year for these services.” Jim Creech Township Manager. $1,220.020 Rochester Hills assessing needs “The City of Rochester Hills 2010 Assessment Roll has 25,298 real property parcels and 1,997 personal property accounts.” Kurt Dawson Director of Assessing. If Rochester Hills contracted Oakland County Equalization like the City of Rochester and Oakland Township our cost could be approximately: $402,238.20 real property, $24,762.80 personal property, $427,001.00 total. This could be our approximate assessing cost plus some minor related cost for a city employee to coordinate with the County. Why do we overpay for our assessing needs by about $793,019 every year in Rochester Hills? Why do we not bid our assessing department against the County?

    Scot Beaton

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