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Published: Wednesday, 7/19/2006

Development period may be slowing but not ending

BY BENJAMIN ALEXANDER-BLOCH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Development or a slowing down of development? It's a common question, especially in suburban communities such as Bedford Township that still maintain a bit of their rural flavor.

The recent rejection of Jeffrey Turi's proposed residential subdivision on West Temperance Road provides a window into township residents' leanings.

"We are starting to see more and more comments against new development, especially residential," said Dennis Jenkins, the township's planning and zoning coordinator.

"A lot of people moved here from other areas, particularly Toledo, and they don't want to see Bedford turning into a highly populated area ... but it is hard to shut the door [on development] if the infrastructure and the zoning are in place."

Bedford Township has a population of 31,373, according to July, 2006, estimates from the Southeast Michigan Council of Governments.

This is an increase of 9.7 percent, or 2,767 residents, from the 2000 U.S. Census Bureau figure of 28,606.

The township issued an average of 262 residential building permits annually from 2000 to 2004. In 2005, the township permitted 179 new units - 159 of them were single-family units.

There have been just 62 single-family units permitted so far in 2006, according to the township's records, which Mr. Jenkins said "represents a significant drop over the last six months."

The zoning on Mr. Turi's 16-acre plat at 2855 West Temperance Rd. only allows for two residential lots.

The six-acre lot already has a house on it, and the 10-acre parcel is zoned for one house but does not yet have one.

Mr. Turi filed under the Planned Unit Development ordinance for approval to add six additional 2-acre lots.

But at last week's township board meeting, the board followed the planning commission's recommendation and denied Mr. Turi's proposal. Mr. Turi said he will not resubmit another developmental proposal for this parcel.

"It has been a waste of time, and effort, and money," he said. "I think their decision was made before they stepped into the door. I think they should have done more homework instead of just listening to the neighbors."

Developer Mark Brant of Bedford Partners LLC has a lawsuit pending in Monroe County Circuit Court over the denial of his rezoning request made last August for 80 acres zoned agricultural that he wants to rezone residential.

An adjoining 80 acres that he owns are already zoned to allow a housing subdivision.

He plans a 450-home subdivision on both 80-acre parcels off Erie Road, which would be the largest subdivision in the township.

Mr. Brant is working on developing a subdivision on the properly zoned parcel - titled Albring Farms Plat One.

"Of course they would rather it be an open field for the rest of their life. What neighbor in his right mind would say he would rather look at a subdivision than a field that he doesn't have to pay anything for?" said Mr. Brant.

"But it is not their property, and this is still the United States of America," he said. "If you own a property, than you have certain property rights."

But the township's board members and its residents were returning to a common question: development or a lack of development?

"We want to continue to grow as a community, but the question is, is now the time to do it?" said Trustee Rick Steiner.

"You make a little bit less money ... ," Mr. Steiner said, but, "granted, you keep your neighbors happier. Right now I think the impact [Mr. Turi's project would have had] on the residents is more than is necessary."

Denise and Chuck Poage, residents at 3035 West Temperance Rd., said that they are concerned with maintaining the peace, serenity, and security they have enjoyed over the years.

"We are not against progress in Bedford Township; we would just like to see controlled progress," said Mr. Poage.

"If we allow these types of developments," he said, "we are going to fill Bedford Township with doctors and lawyers, and soon the blue-collar people will all be moved out."

Fred Berning, owner of Farnham, Wirries & Berning, a Toledo land surveying and engineering company since the 1950s, said that this type of talk "goes on routinely.

"The neighbors talk about schools, traffic, and not in my backyard. ... They are trying to keep the status quo," he said.

"There has been a lot of good steady development over the last 15 years," Mr. Berning said, "but it has slowed down in the last 6 to 8 months."

Contact Benjamin Alexander-Bloch

at babloch@theblade.com

or 419-724-6050.



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