Two court battles in Monroe County Circuit Court this year have dealt with whether the character of Bedford Township is more rural, residential, or commercial in nature.
Taking the judges' rulings at face value, it would seem the verdict is in: The township is a once-rural, now more and more residential community whose wish is to use Toledo as its commercial, downtown center.
In March, the township won a lawsuit that prevented the development of a Wal-Mart Supercenter.
In another court case a month later, a judge superseded the township and ruled in the favor of developers, allowing them to build the largest housing subdivision in the township on what was previously agriculturally zoned land.
But Bedford residents themselves - outside of the courts and within the day-to-day lives of their communities - are beginning to create unique enclaves within the township, each with its own differentiated identity, that subtly differ from the cut-and-dry court verdicts.
The township contains three unincorporated villages - Temperance, Lambertville, and Samaria.
"Bedford Township is made up three small little towns, each is a community within the township and each has its own unique community with its own identity," Temperance resident Gail Keane said.
In Temperance, residents are working to maintain quiet residential lives while also establishing a downtown that complements it.
In 2003, Temperance's post office moved out of town and the village's main grocery store - Foodtown - shut down.
"We had businesses leaving instead of coming, and all this cut down on the amount of foot traffic, and downtown began to look a little shaggy," said Ms. Keane, a founding member of the Temperance Action Committee. "The talk around town was the town was dying."
Later in 2003, the township's Economic Development Corporation commissioned a survey of residents and businesses in Temperance to understand how the village could reinvigorate and reinvent itself.
"We are committed to work with the three unincorporated villages, maybe even make them a destination, where people would want to come and shop," said Pearl Albert-Green, the EDC's chairman.
The Temperance Action Committee was formed on the recommendation of the six-month study. It is an arm of the development corporation, made up of Temperance residents who state their mission as "maintaining the unique identity of Temperance, as distinct from that of Bedford Township as a whole."
One of the 2003 study's suggestions was that welcome signs would help bring traffic into Temperance and would help distinguish the village from its surroundings.
"The study showed that people thought we didn't exist in the fact that there wasn't any signage," Ms. Keane said. "We know where we live, but anyone traveling on Lewis Avenue, between Ida and Toledo, doesn't always know they have just gone through a little town."
So the committe immediately identified new signs as one of the goals to bring, as Ms. Keane said, "a little individuality, so to speak."
The recently designed signs were made to look "ornate, appear different, but have an old-fashioned, small-town feel - very simple, but with a unique look," she said.
One of the signs reads, "Embracing our past .•.•. Envisioning our Future."
The committee plans to place the four signs at Temperance's four corners, with the first sign likely going up at the village's southern tip within the next few months.
With Temperance coming along, the economic group has begun a similar process in Lambertville.
In March, it completed a study on the village that found one of the most cited problems with Lambertville was "no identity or unified feeling."
Residents who were surveyed overwhelmingly said they wanted the village to have an identity apart from the Sterns/Secor intersection - rows of mostly strip malls - that currently, and unduly, is what people associate with the village.
Residents said they thought Lambertville should be more identified with its history - a village first settled in 1832 that boasted log cabins and was a crossroad for two major Indian trails.
The study suggested a few strategies.
It recommended naming a downtown area - Lambertville Center, Old Town Lambertville, and The Lambertville Triangle were a few of its examples - creating historic makers and plaques, developing more community events like farmers' markets or concerts, and creating welcome signs.
Ms. Albert-Green said she expects Lambertville to form a committee, similar to the one in Temperance, by the middle of this summer.
She said the development corporation has not yet commissioned a study on Samaria but some informal surveys are being taken.
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