Sterling Heights to ask voters for $45M for parks

Nicquel Terry
The Detroit News

Sterling Heights — The city in November will ask voters to approve a millage that would fund a $45 million plan to support parks and recreational offerings.

Council members voted Tuesday to place a charter amendment on the ballot for several projects outlined in Sterling Heights’ Recreating Recreation Initiative, including a dog park, ice rink and a 122,000-square-foot community center.

The 0.97-mill property tax increase would cost the owner of a home assessed at $100,000 nearly $78 annually for 20 years. The election is Nov. 8.

Officials say the levy backs their efforts to make the town more attractive as it approaches 50 years of incorporation.

“There is so much potential to develop Sterling Heights as a place renowned for recreational opportunities,” Mayor Michael C. Taylor said in a statement. “These new recreational amenities will be destinations for our residents and an attraction for families looking for an outstanding quality of life.”

The community center would include an athletic track, basketball courts, private rooms for parties, an exercise room and meeting rooms, officials say. Other proposed projects include:

■A permanent facility for the Dodge Park Farmers Market.

■An outdoor ice rink.

■An outdoor splash park.

■A multi-use skate park and mini-turf soccer field.

The town also wants to create facilities for canoeing and kayaking and make capital improvements to 21 neighborhood parks and five major parks.

Mayor Pro-Tem Joseph Romano said while he believes the town could benefit from new recreational offerings, he doesn’t support a tax hike.

Romano said the town could have skipped the community center plan and used its general fund to pay for a dog park, splash park and farmers market improvements.

“It’s going to be expensive (for taxpayers),” Romano said, noting many homes in Sterling Heights are assessed at more than $100,000. “I just don’t think at this particular time that Sterling Heights needs to raise its taxes.”

If the millage is approved, funding for the projects would become available in July 2017, said Kyle Langlois, the city’s parks and recreation director. Construction could start soon after, he added.

The parks and recreation proposal stems from an initiative called Vision 2030. The Vision 2030 team concluded the city needed to offer more leisure and recreational opportunities, attractive commercial centers and high quality roads, green spaces and neighborhoods.

“We need to position ourselves in the ideals of today’s residents,” Langlois said. “And people are different and we need align ourselves with some of the more current ways of thinking.”