TEMPERANCE - The bull rush to amend Bedford Township's controversial architectural ordinance for commercial properties slowed last week after an ad-hoc committee reviewing potential changes sent it back for more work.
Township officials have been working for months on a number of proposed changes to the architecture ordinance the township board passed nearly two years ago, as well as an accompanying design manual that would explain what is expected in more detail.
But the process of actually spelling out what Bedford Township wants is proving more difficult than simply expressing a desire that it doesn't want the stringent requirements laid out in the original ordinance.
At a meeting last week to review a draft of the new design manual, the ad-hoc citizens committee charged with shepherding the amendment process liked some of the things it saw, but wanted the document simplified and clarified before it gets presented to the Planning Commission.
"We went from a very simple to a very sophisticated document that might be too much for people to work through," said township treasurer Sherri Meyer, one of two board members on the committee.
The manual deals with many of the design aspects of commercial development, from things like roof lines and pitches to screening for parking and trash to the extent of artificial materials that can be used on the facade. But unlike the current ordinance that is still in place, the manual simply "suggests" what should be used to help businesses in the township look better.
Zach Brannigan, the township's planning consultant from Wade-Trim that was assigned to craft the design manual, told ad-hoc committee members that the first rewrite of the document loosens the restrictions on developers and is supposed to foster their creativity.
"Nothing in this is supposed to lay down the law," Mr. Brannigan said. "This way, it's going to provide a number of options. I like to think of this as more like an aesthetic master plan."
Developer Dave Kienzle, who is developing a 62-acre, 143-home and multi-use project at the corner of Secor and Smith roads, is a member of the ad-hoc committee, as is his partner in that project, local builder Bill Decker, Sr.
Mr. Kienzle said looser restrictions can work against a potential developer in certain circumstances.
"What I'm worried about is the arbitrariness, where someone can say 'We like him, we don't like him,' and make their decisions accordingly," Mr. Kienzle said. "I'm worried that every darn thing that goes up in the township is going to become a negotiation, or a three-level negotiation, to get it approved."
But Mr. Brannigan argued that the manual, rather than providing less information, would instead provide "another level of explanation as to what was expected of each new project.
"Developers like it when they know what [a community wants]. Just so long as you don't deviate too much from [the design manual]," Mr. Brannigan said.
Township planning and zoning coordinator Dennis Jenkins, who has been wrestling with the ordinance and manual for several years, told board members that, when it is in its final form, it will make it easier for developers to build in Bedford.
"I can give a developer a sheet of paper and explain to him that he really needs to have the people designing his development look at this," Mr. Jenkins said. "If they pretty much respond to the ordinance, than their project should be ready to go [before it even gets presented for approvals]."
The committee will continue its work on July 15.
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