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Published: Wednesday, 6/18/2008

In Bedford, salad days starting to wilt for home sales

BY ANGIE SCHMITT
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - Several blocks into the Prairie Woods subdivision off Sterns Road, the evidence of a national housing crisis begins to reveal itself.

Evenly trimmed lawns transition to a low tangle of weeds. Unfinished sidewalks trail off into nowhere. For Sale signs stand on lot after empty lot.

Amid the would-be construction sites sits Kelly Brandhuber's two-story home, purchased 1 1/2 years ago.

Since moving to the Bedford Township development, Mrs. Brandhuber has seen home prices plummet and development slow to a crawl.

On one hand, the young mother enjoys the privacy. On the other hand she doesn't like traveling to the front of the neighborhood so her children can use the sidewalks.

"I'm tired of looking at the dingy, dirty land," she said. "Who knows how long it will be before there's sidewalks all around the neighborhood?"

The circumstances in Prairie Woods are not unique to Bedford Township, once one of the hottest new addresses in Metro Toledo. Like in so many other municipalities in the Toledo area, the development rush has dwindled to a trickle, said Dennis Jenkins, the township's planning coordinator.

In 1998, during the height of Bedford's development boom, 247 new homes were built in a single year, Mr. Jenkins said. This year the township has issued only 20 building permits for new single-family homes.

"It's not totally dead," Mr. Jenkins said. "It's just slowing down dramatically from what it was a couple of years ago."

Bedford trustees recently granted four developers extensions on approved plans for new subdivisions, including Prairie Woods. In each case the developer cited economic conditions as the contributing factor for the delay.

About 300 township lots remain undeveloped between Prairie Woods and other planned neighborhoods, including Hickory Creek, Hidden Lakes - both on Lewis Avenue - and others, Mr. Jenkins said.

"Plats aren't selling," said Brian Retar, an engineer with FWB, Inc., a Toledo-based engineering and surveying firm, who represents two of the developers.

"Even our one developer who's still developing has slowed down a lot."

The Apple Creek subdivision, on Jackman Road north of Smith, has asked for an extension on its approved 68-lot development before construction has begun, Mr. Jenkins said.

Other Bedford Township developments that have been stalled include Olde Country Creek on Erie Road; The Oaks condominiums, at Harmony and Melody lanes, and Greystone Manor and Douglas Ridge, both off Douglas Road.

The developer of Millgate Estates on Sterns Road has completely abandoned plans for a development, Mr. Jenkins said. Construction at Timberwoods condominiums is slowing at about half complete, Mr. Jenkins said.

Jon Jones, sales director for Decker Building Co. in Temperance, said developers are at an impasse.

"It doesn't really matter what subdivision you're in," Mr. Jones said, "people have houses to sell."

Mr. Jones said he has several prospective buyers for Prairie Woods and Hidden Lakes, but those people can't sell the homes they own.

The Decker company saw a drop from 72 units per year to 21 last year.

This year the company has only sold between six to eight homes, Mr. Jones said. Until gas prices drop, unemployment recedes, and Wall Street rallies, the prospects don't seem promising, he said.

"Our consumer confidence is shot right now," Mr. Jones said. "People are just kind of sitting on their hands."

Contact Angie Schmitt at:

aschmitt@theblade.com

or 419-724-6104.



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