The parks drew Gary Uhl to Rochester Hills from Ohio in 1998.
That's one reason he spent "every waking hour" so far this summer working to protect them.
On Wednesday morning, Uhl submitted an 8-inch-thick stack of petitions to the Rochester Hills clerk's office. The petitions were filled with the names of residents supporting a charter amendment designed to protect city parks; the clerk's office is expected to approve the petitions, which will put the amendment on the November ballot.
In the end, Uhl turned in 3,108 signatures collected by more than 50 volunteers, mostly members of the citizens group SPACE (Saving Parks and City Environment). The group needed 2,584 signatures to put the question to a vote of the people.
"The reaction by residents has been very favorable," said Uhl, who collected 422 signatures for the petition drive. "In all the doors I knocked on, only 10 wouldn't sign."
The ballot question will ask Rochester Hills voters to approve an amendment to the city's charter that would require a majority vote of residents to use city-owned parks or green space for anything other than recreation or conservation purposes.
The exact language of the amendment is as follows:
- City-owned parks and open spaces shall be used only for park and open space purposes and shall not be sold, leased, transferred, exchanged or converted to another use unless approved by a majority of votes cast by the electors at an election.
- “Converted to another use” means changing the use of a park or open space, or significant part thereof, from a recreation or conservation use to another use not directly related or incidental to public recreation or conservation.
- This section shall apply to all present and future City-owned property designated as park or open space in the City’s Parks and Recreation Master Plan. The designation of parks or open space shall not be removed or changed without voter approval. The existing use of a park or open space on the effective date of this section shall be considered to be a lawful use for the particular property.
- All land acquired by the City with proceeds from the 2005 Millage Proposal to Provide Funding to Permanently Preserve Green Spaces and Natural Features within the City of Rochester Hills shall remain permanently preserved.
The language was agreed upon by Uhl and the amendment's supporters, as well as by members of the city staff, including Mayor Bryan Barnett and City Attorney John Staran.
Uhl said several members of the City Council, as well as City Council candidates, signed the petition, including: Michael Webber, Nathan Klomp, Ravi Yalamanchi, James Rosen, Adam Kochenderfer, Dee Hilbert, Laurie Puscas and Kathleen Fitzgerald. Mayoral candidate Erik Ambrozaitis, as well as Barnett, also signed the petition.
In addition, he said Yalamanchi, Kochenderfer, Hilbert, Puscas, Fitzgerald and Ambrozaitis circulated petitions.
Uhl and other amendment supporters were spurred to circulate the petitions and craft the amendment language in response to the city's plan earlier this year to build two water reservoirs on city-owned park land. Council members voted down the water tanks following months of debate and public comments.
Uhl said this amendment would require a vote of the people before park land is used for water reservoirs or other nonrecreational use.