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Published: Wednesday, 12/17/2008

Bedford Watch tries to overturn zoning change

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE A citizens group has given notice to Bedford Township that it will seek to overturn the controversial rezoning of property owned by businessman and auto dealer Jon Whitman.

After taking an Internet survey to measure community interest, Bedford Watch has taken the first steps to get the issue on the ballot as a referendum.

James Duggan, township resident and a Bedford Watch member, filed notice with the township clerk last week to appeal the Dec. 2 decision to rezone land at Lewis Avenue and Sterns Road.

Under the state zoning and enabling act, the notice to appeal legislative action through referendum must be within seven days of the ordinance being published in a local newspaper.

The publication of the ordinance on Monday started the clock running for the group to begin collecting signatures on a voter s petition.

The paperwork with signatures requesting the referendum must be filed with the township within 30 days.

Clerk Bob Schockman said the group will need to collect signatures from 15 percent of the total ballots cast in the 2006 election, or about 1,700 registered voters.

Because a referendum to appeal zoning action is rare, Mr. Schockman said he has consulted with township attorneys and the Michigan Township Association to make sure the correct steps are taken in handling a ballot issue.

We want to make sure that we don t make any mistakes, he said.

Mr. Schockman said a successful referendum petition would result in a ballot issue going before voters, possibly as early as February.

We would have to do it within a reasonable time, he said. We certainly would do it as quickly as we can.

The township board approved zoning changes on five of six requests covering 34 acres owned by Mr. Whitman, owner and president of Whitman Ford on Lewis Avenue.

The modifications included two parcels to the north and south of the dealership from C-2 commercial to C-3 commercial, the township s most liberal designation for commercial land.

The board also approved rezoning about nine acres next to the Indian Acres subdivision from single family residential to residential for people 55-years and older and multi-family housing.

A four-acre parcel next to the neighborhood on Sterns was changed to allow for professional and business office use.

The township board denied a request from Mr. Whitman to rezone about eight acres west of the dealership from single family residential to C-2 commercial.

Judy Frankowski, a member of Bedford Watch, said zoning that would allow the mixed use of professional office and business, multiple residential, and elderly housing would not be appropriate next to homes in Indian Acres.

She said the group also was concerned about changes in commercial zoning on Lewis that could open the door to big-box store development.

The referendum will be like an insurance policy that we are considering, she said.

We don t want to look back, but we have the need to protect our interest and our property, she added.



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