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Published: Wednesday, 10/29/2003

Adrian-area voters to settle split caused by detachment issue

A year after residents in Adrian and portions of Adrian Charter Township voted in favor of an annexation, voters will be questioned on whether the land should be returned.

All registered voters in the city and its neighboring township will be able to vote Nov. 4 on whether to detach certain portions of the city. The issue, which began several years ago with the city's annexation of land, is another step in the longstanding feud between the two communities.

The detachment will be the only issue on the township ballot. In Adrian, residents also will vote for mayor and city commissioners.

Al Ballenberger is a member of the Citizens for Democracy Committee, formed in support of the detachment issue. Mr. Ballenberger, who is an Adrian resident, said he joined the committee because his mother's land was annexed into the city this year, which he said was done without her consent.

“We're asking for a `yes' vote to return the land to the township that was forcibly annexed,” he said. “Property should not be moved between governments at the whim of the politicians, period. That property should be allowed to be brought back.”

At issue are several plots on the city's western and northern border recently annexed into the city. City officials said the land was transferred either at the request of the property owner or to help smooth Adrian's jagged borders.

Included in that annexation was 30 acres owned by First Church of the Nazarene on Industrial Drive. Ken Richardson, a member of the church who has been representing it during this issue, said he approached the city several years ago looking to be annexed because the township could not provide adequate road and water services.

Mr. Richardson said church members are waiting to complete its nearly $2 million building project with a new paved road, which can't be done while the property's jurisdiction is in doubt.

“I do think we should have right to have access and utilities,” Mr. Richardson said, adding that the church's property is about 25 percent of the detachment proposal. “If the township did that, none of this would have happened.”

The issue has been contentious in Lenawee County, where residents and groups have put their support behind one of the two groups. The Lenawee County Chamber of Commerce and the Adrian Area Chamber of Commerce have come out against the detachment proposal.

Former State Sen. Jim Berryman, a member of Building a Better Community Together that supports voting against detachment, said he believes a vote in favor of detachment will create an even more divisive community.

“They're not looking at the reality that if this passes, job growth in the community will be nonexistent,” Mr. Berryman said. “As long as the township and the city are battling it out in court, businesses are going to go somewhere else. There are too many communities that are getting along.”

Detachment supporters disagree. They said the only issue that this vote will affect deals with individuals' property rights. “We are firmly of the opinion that after this election we can have cooperation between committees and governments,” township resident Jerry Edwards said. “This is about people's property rights.”

In other issues, Adrian Mayor Sam Rye is running uncontested. Five residents, including three incumbents, are running to fill three seats commissioner.

On the ballot are incumbents Michael Clegg, Barbara Mitzel, Eric Sullivan, and newcomers Jim Awad and Carl Meddick.

Lenawee County has contested elections in Hudson and Morenci.

Running for three open seats in Hudson are Christine Borck, Rosalyn Gerken, Jerry Tanner, Jr., and Lawrence Varney. All are three-year terms.

In Morenci, Councilman John Van Havel is challenging Mayor Russ Sutherland. Also on the ballot are Lance Simpson, Ernest Schultz, Richard Hewitt, and Peggy Decker, each vying for one of three open council seats.

- ERICA BLAKE



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