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Published: Wednesday, 2/27/2008

Deal offered in zoning dispute

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Star Fireworks is on Sterns Road. Gateway Fireworks wants to operate on the corner of Sterns and Schnipke roads. Star Fireworks is on Sterns Road. Gateway Fireworks wants to operate on the corner of Sterns and Schnipke roads.
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OTTAWA LAKE - An offer has been made by Gateway Fireworks that could result in the fireworks distributor waiving the damage claims filed in a federal lawsuit against Whiteford Township, township officials said.

Gateway, which sued the township over a zoning dispute on property it owns on Schnipke Drive and Sterns Road, has asked for permission to operate a fireworks store at the location through the end of the year.

In return, Gateway would agree to waive unspecified claims for damages made in a lawsuit filed in November in U.S. District Court in Detroit.

Trustees were given a rundown on the proposal last week in a letter from Gateway's attorneys to Frederick Lucas, an attorney who is representing the township in the litigation.

"They are asking that if the township were to consider the proposal, they would reduce the risk of monetary damages. The litigation would continue and the court would decide the proper zoning," said Clerk Bernice Heidelberg.

A trial date in the case is scheduled for Jan. 12, 2009, before Judge Bernard Friedman. The lawsuit, which accuses the township of constitutional and civil rights violations, was filed Nov. 20.

While the proposed agreement could reduce the financial exposure of the township, it would allow temporary approval of zoning for fireworks operations that voters rejected in a referendum petition last November.

The would-be fireworks business has been the subject of previous court action.

After township trustees changed the zoning of the property to hazardous material district in October, 2006, Elizabeth Soss, co-owner of the competing All American Novelties, sued the township after it rejected petitions she filed for a referendum vote to overturn the zoning action.

A Monroe County Circuit Court judge ruled in favor of Ms. Soss, and that decision was upheld by a state appeals court, allowing for the issue to go before voters last November. The referendum petition as approved by voters reverted the property back to business highway use.

Trustees also gave approval to submit a grant application to the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund.

The $75,000 matching grant request, which is due March 1, would be used to build a multi-purpose building at the new township community park.

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 734-241-3610.



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