Royal Oak to appeal ruling on veterans memorial ballot proposal

James David Dickson
The Detroit News

Royal Oak — The Royal Oak City Commission voted unanimously Wednesday to direct the city attorney to appeal an Oakland Circuit Court judge's ruling about a contentious veterans memorial.

Judge Jeffrey Matis had ruled Friday that petition language on whether the veterans memorial should be moved can be placed on the November ballot. 

More:Veterans group claims victory in Royal Oak War Memorial fight

Royal Oak City Attorney Aaron Leal will prepare an appeal. 

FILE - VFW members, from left, Jim Muys of VFW Post 334, Gerald Gorski of the VFW National Council 2019-2023, Frank Flores of VFW Post 1340 and Chris Templeton of VFW Post 1669 gather at the Royal Oak Veterans Memorial in Royal Oak on Jan. 8, 2021.

The suit was filed in May behalf of Save the Veterans Memorial, American Legion Post No. 253, Veterans of Foreign Wars Acorn Post No 1669 and three Royal Oak registered voters — William Berado, Wallis May Andersen and William E. Harrison.

More:Vets sue to have Royal Oak memorial site decided by voters in November

The city has planned a Centennial Commons area to replace the old city hall and police station. Those plans have involved eliminating old buildings and surface parking spaces and selling off land to be used for a hospital office building 

Part of the Centennial Commons plan calls for moving the memorial 40 feet southeast toward Troy Street. Those favoring the move said it will benefit anyone visiting the memorial and also keep it safe from bicycles, skateboarders and others passing through or using the park.

Critics argue the relocation will mean less space and more noise from the nearby street, Farmers Market and new City Hall and police station.

Veterans organizations also have claimed they've been excluded from the plans and decision-making process.

The issue has been contentious. The veterans groups told Mayor Michael Fournier and the City Commission that their presence at the annual Memorial Day parade would not be welcomed, and urged them to stay away.

Community members and area veterans who spoke during the public comment period Wednesday opposed the city using any further taxpayer resources fighting the legal battle. 

One woman urged the commission against continued use of "expensive outside counsel" to fight the battle.

A man urged commissioners to restore the memorial "to its previous, idyllic location."

"This has been judged in a court of law," one of the veterans said. 

In her public comment, Carol Hennessy, a longtime Royal Oak resident who has organized grave cleanings and flag placements at Oakview cemetery, urged the memorial to be "returned to where it should be, and that the nearby portajohns be removed.

"That's just disgusting," Hennessy said.