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Published: Wednesday, 1/7/2004

Bedford vote rejects Whitman rezoning

TEMPERANCE - For the second time in seven months, the Bedford Township board last night rejected a request to rezone a large section of vacant land next to Whitman Ford in Temperance.

Owners of the auto dealership sought rezoning of about 20 acres south of their business from C-2 shopping center and R-2a residential zoning to C-3 commercial, the township's most liberal designation for commercial land.

The request was rejected last night by a vote of 6-1, with Trustee Dennis Steinman voting to approve the request.

The vote was identical to one in June when Whitman Ford owner Jon Whitman requested that about 20 acres north of his property be rezoned.

In both instances, Mr. Whitman said the rezoning was needed to allow the dealership to expand and, in both cases, township board members said they wanted the dealership to expand, but the C-3 zoning was incompatible with neighboring residential zoning.

The land surrounds the dealership and has been on the market for the last several years.

At one time, Wal-Mart had an option on the land and intended to build a 225,000-square-foot superstore there.

The project was abandoned when the retailing giant could find no way around the township's architectural ordinances, which limit the size of such developments.

Still, township officials expressed a desire to work with the Whitmans to reach an amicable settlement that would allow them to expand their dealership while protecting neighboring residences from commercial encroachment.

“This area cries for compromise,” township Clerk Bob Schockman said. “The planning commission tried, we tried back in June. Compromise in this case is not surrender, it's simply being reasonable for the concerns of our neighbors.”

Reached last night at his home, Mr. Whitman said the continued refusal of the township board to rezone his property was “expected and unfortunate,” and left him and his family no choice but to sue “to expand the business we have had for the last 54 years.”

Mr. Whitman said he expects to file a lawsuit in Monroe County Circuit Court as soon as a transcript of last night's board meeting becomes available.

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