Dexter Ballot Question Faces Unexpected Delay to 2024 Election
The Dexter City Council discussed ballot language for a citizen-initiated petition proposing the preservation of Mill Creek Park North.
Mill Creek Park North is the approximately two acres of park behind Dexter’s fire station, currently known best as an unofficial B2B trailhead featuring picnic tables, play structures, and a lawn area.
The petition is a controversial move surfacing after the council voted to reconstruct the current fire station over building a new structure on another lot. Supporters of the petition, most notably council members Griffin and Michels, hoped to get the question before voters in an August election. Should the park preservation be successful, it could interfere with plans to expand the firehall as the council voted to do after a heated debate on Feb. 27 by a 4-3 vote, forcing new construction at another location.
However, getting the question before voters in August is unlikely. City Manager Breyer, who also serves as City Clerk, walked the council through the decision process.
Breyer’s written report stated, “On Tuesday, May 2, 2023, the City of Dexter received from a group called ‘Friends of Mill Creek Park’ a citizen-initiated petition proposing an amendment to the City of Dexter Charter.”
The amendment reads, “THE CITY-OWNED PUBLIC LAND BOUNDED BY ALPINE STREET, MAIN STREET, MILL CREEK, AND THE RAILROAD SHALL BE RETAINED IN PUBLIC OWNERSHIP, IN PERPETUITY, AND SHALL BE SET ASIDE FOR AND DEVOTED TO ACTIVE RECREATION, PASSIVE RECREATION, OR BOTH.”
Breyer used Michigan Code Law (MCL 117.21) to explain Friends of Mill Creek Park (FOMCP) met the requirement of submitting a petition with 5% (180) of Dexter’s 3,599 registered voters. The letter accompanying the petition requested the placement of a ballot question on the Aug. 8, 2023 election.
“Based on staff’s and the City Attorney’s understanding of the process and reading of state election law, citizen-initiated charter amendment petitions may only be placed on the Nov. 5, 2024 General Election ballot,” Breyer wrote.
From MCL 117.21, the City Manager cited, “If the amendment is proposed by an initiatory petition, the amendment shall be submitted to the electors of the city at the next regular municipal or general state election held in the city not less than 90 days after the filing of the petition.”
Breyer told the council that in 2018, Dexter City Council approved a resolution to move City Council and Mayoral elections to even-year November elections, thus establishing even-year November elections as the City’s “regular election date.”
The next eligible election date for the charter amendment question would then be Nov. 2024, perhaps thwarting the plans of those wishing to use it to block the reconstruction of the fire station, which is set to break ground in the spring.
“Regardless of the length of time before the requested charter amendment may be placed on a ballot, staff is continuing to work with the City Attorney to move the process forward,” wrote Breyer. “The next step in the process is for City Council to adopt a resolution to approve ballot language.”
During the discussion, Mayor Keough noted that the council had to redo the language because the original proposed amendment was not in the form of a question. City Manager Breyer requested council members get their comments and questions on the amendment to him by Jul. 21, in time for the next council meeting.
Photo by Doug Marrin