To build or not to build?
That's the question confronting planning boards and township officials in booming Bedford Township, where a proposed housing development has some residents up in arms.
A non-binding recommendation by the township's planning commission on the 60-acre Albring Farms site - where Decker Building Co. of Temperance is proposing a 120 to 150-home development - has been tabled until Nov. 3.
An Oct. 13 planning board meeting was packed with the project's proponents and detractors, many of whom voiced their opinions, leaving no time for commissioners to vote on whether to recommend changing the property's zoning from agricultural to residential.
"It's a coin toss," said Dennis Jenkins, planning and zoning coordinator. "This is not an easy decision to make."
Dennis Phillips, an organizer of No More Subs.com - a group fighting the development - said the issue is planned development that follows the township's master plan.
"I am for growth. I am for buildings," he said. "But everyone needs to follow the master plan."
The plan, he said, designates certain parts of the township for residential development while other parts are to remain agricultural, either as working farms or to serve as buffers between developments.
Residential development was supposed to stay on the west side of the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks. But two years ago the township board members went against township and county planning boards' decisions against the Village Meadows subdivision project, which ended up being built next to the Albring Farms plot, Mr. Phillips said, giving activists like himself reason to speak out.
But Bill Decker, Jr., Decker Building's president, said there's a fundamental problem with the master plan because it creates a situation in which agricultural lands are left landlocked and of no use or value. Such is the case with the Albring property, for which he has an option to buy if the zoning change he seeks is approved.
"There was an oversight in the master plan," he said. "You would have to take a helicopter to get farm equipment on to the property," he said.
Mr. Phillips said that in this case, the farm land should serve as a buffer between the Village Meadows development and another yet-to-be-planned development on the other side of Albring Farms that was zoned residential in the 1970s.
But project proponents argue that such a measure would make property like the Albring's worth considerably less.
Mr. Decker said the residential zoning he is requesting calls for a less dense development than the residential zoning of the Village Meadows development, where lot widths are 60 feet compared to the 80 feet in his proposed development.
Mr. Phillips said his group is fighting against increased traffic on worn roads, overcrowded schools, overuse of the township's water and sewage systems, and extra pressure on the townhip's undermanned authorities. He said support for his group's position is widespread.
"You could go to every house in this township and they would put a No More Subs sign in their front yard," he said.
But Mr. Decker, whose company has built numerous subdivisions in the township, said the only people who normally complain about projects are residents who live nearby and newcomers to the township.
Contact George J. Tanber
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