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3,108 Signatures Later, Parks Question Moves Closer to November Ballot

If the petitions are approved, Rochester Hills voters will be asked whether they want to support a charter amendment designed to protect city parks.

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.

Dee August 10, 2011 at 10:54 PM
Kudos to Gary Uhl, Steve McGarry, Peggy Fisher and everyone else who worked so hard on the petitiion drive. Again, our community has pulled together to make a positive impact, have our voices heard and to protect what we love so much about Rochester Hills.
lisa August 11, 2011 at 01:21 AM
We need as good of turn out on Tues Nov 8th to vote to pass the charter amendment. This is needed to provide checks and balances of our government. The city spent $80,000 in the planning of these "tuna cans" before having a public hearing. Webber, Vern, Hopper and Nathan were still saying it had a good business plan when there was no written plan at all!
Rachael August 11, 2011 at 03:46 AM
Great Job to Gary and the whole team......Let's not forget what got us here.... The City Council approved spending $500K for the design of Water Towers. Then choose the Tienken parkland as one of the sites. They were marching toward spending $18 million on a project that had NO business case, when residents stood up and were heard, stopping this ill fated project in its tracks. Now these same councilmen sign the petitions to stop themselves from ever attempting this again without citizen approval. Amazing ........ Lets vote November 8th to protect our parks and break up the Mayor's majority on council to avaoid fiasco's like this in the future.. Webber and Kochenderfer represent the council's status quo and should be sent packing ......
Kristin Bull August 19, 2011 at 12:58 AM
Received word today from Mr. Uhl that the signatures were approved and the petition is on its way to the Governor's office. So, now it's official: the parks question is definitely on the November ballot.

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