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Published: Wednesday, 5/6/2009

Election 2009: Bedford voters kill rezoning of parcel for big-box store


TEMPERANCE Bedford Township voters yesterday decisively struck down a decision last year of the township board to rezone land owned by businessman Jon Whitman near Lewis Avenue and Sterns Road.

Citizen s group Bedfordwatch.com, which formed years ago in reaction to plans to develop a Wal-Mart on the site, got the issue on the ballot after gathering signatures on petitions for a referendum vote.

Members of the group, who included residents of the nearby Indian Trails neighborhood, feared that the rezoning could open the door for the construction of a Wal-Mart or other big box stores on the Whitman property.

The members of Bedfordwatch.com didn t decide anything today. The people of Bedford Township spoke loud and clear to Jon Whitman that they do not want a Wal-Mart in their township, said Doug Bermick, a member of the group.

Now Jon Whitman is going to have to fight his battle with the 32,000 residents of the township, not just seven trustees on the township board, Mr. Bermick said.

With the 3,209 to 2,920 vote, land north and south of the Whitman Ford auto dealership reverts from C-3 commercial, the township s most liberal designation for commercial land use, to C-2 commercial.

In addition, about nine acres adjacent to the Indian Trails subdivision was changed back to allow for single-family residential zoning. The board had approved a rezoning request from Mr. Whitman on the parcel to allow for the construction of housing for people 55 years and older and multifamily residential use.

Trustee Paul Francis, who is related to Mr. Whitman, said he was disappointed with the vote because the transitional zoning approved by the board balanced the rights of competing property owners and reverting land near Indian Trails to residential zoning doesn t follow the township master plan.

I am saddened that extremely negative campaigning and character assassination has worked, and has turned one neighbor against another, he said. One party has unreasonably forced its will on the other party.

In Bowling Green, police won t be stopping motorists for talking on their cell phones after all.

City voters rejected a proposal to ban the use of hand-held cell phones while driving in the city limits.

The ban, which was introduced to City Council last year by at-large Councilman Robert McComber, failed 2,281 to1,815.

I m not overly surprised. I figured it would be really close, Mr. McComber said. I do think one thing to consider is some people voted against it simply because they thought it ought to be a statewide ban, not a local ban. I suspect if you could identify those people, you would find a majority favor a ban.

While Mr. McComber said he believes motorists who talk on cell phones are distracted and dangerous, he said the voters had spoken and he did not intend to pursue the issue further.

The ban, which would have permitted motorists to talk on hands-free devices, would have given police authority to cite motorists they saw using a hand-held phone for a minor misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $150.

Norm Heineman, a wine wholesaler who had been a vocal opponent of the ban, was pleased to hear the ban failed.

I think the voters just had good sense about this, said Mr. Heineman, who lives just outside the city. The issue, I thought, was vapid and intellectually offensive, and there were lots of reasons to be against it.

Among the other issues decided in the area yesterday:

• Fulton County voters agreed to renew a 1.1-mill, five-year levy that supports services and facilities for senior citizens. It passed 2,159 to 1,107.

• In Hancock County, voters gave wide approval to a 2.5-mill, five-year renewal of an operating levy for the Board of Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities, which operates Blanchard Valley Center. It passed 7,176 to 3,212.

• In the village of Swanton, a 1.5-mill replacement tax for five years for fire department operations passed 162 to 81. A 0.5-mill, 5-year replacement for park improvements was approved 129 to 113.

• In Napoleon, city voters narrowly approved a 1.3 percent income tax for municipal operations, property purchases, capital improvements, and economic development. It passed 486 to 471.

• Rossford voters agreed to renew two levies that support the city s recreation department and one that supports the fire department, but they apparently did not want to increase their taxes for a second fire levy.

Voters renewed two separate 0.4-mill, five-year levies for recreational purposes the first passed 549 to 364, the second was approved 514 to 401. Voters also approved a 0.6 mill, five-year levy for fire equipment by a 520-to-394 margin, but rejected a 1.5-mill, five-year levy for fire equipment by a margin of 528 to 385. That levy would have renewed an existing 1-mill levy and increased it by 0.5 mill.

• Perrysburg Township voters agreed to renew a 1-mill, five-year levy and a 2-mill, five-year levy, both of which support the fire department. The 1-mill levy passed 445 to 177, while the 2-mill levy was approved 435 to 185.

• In Grand Rapids Township, which includes the village of Grand Rapids, voters defeated a pair of levies: a 0.4-mill, five-year levy that pays for maintenance at Beaver Creek Cemetery failed 231 to 166, and a 0.25-mill, five-year levy that supports the historic Town Hall went down 242 to 153.

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