Judge weighs gas, oil drilling in Rochester Hills

The Detroit News

Rochester Hills – —A Circuit Court judge is considering whether to allow the oil and gas exploration on city-owned land.

Judge James Alexander held a hearing Wednesday where a citizens group argued Rochester Hills violated its charter by approving the drilling without first getting approval of voters.

After listening to the arguments of Don't Drill the Hills, Alexander said he would review the matter. No deadline was set for a decision.

The hearing followed 10months of protests by the group at public meetings and hearings.

The foundation of a home is seen on June 5 at the small Tienken Park in Rochester Hills where an exploration company could be drillig under in the future.

Last year the city agreed to allow Jordan Development Co. of Traverse City to drill at a cemetery and two city parks.

In May the group filed a lawsuit saying the mayor and council overstepped their authority in approving the drilling.

The city charter had been amended in 2011 to require voter approval before city-owned open spaces could be sold, leased or changed to a non-recreation or non-conservation use.

"We feel that both the letter and intent of the law are clear," said group member Kristen Kennedy, who lives across the street from the city-owned Stoney Creek Cemetery.

The city has argued the charter amendment doesn't ban leasing of mineral rights, and that the drilling would be horizontal from industrial sites that likely would be outside the city.

City Attorney John Staran wasn't immediately available for comment.