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Published: Wednesday, 4/13/2005

Bedford Township: Developers plan largest subdivision

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - A group of investors that includes a former township supervisor and one of Michigan's largest mobile home developers has purchased 160 acres just northeast of Temperance where it plans to build Bedford Township's largest subdivision.

Mark Brant, who served as Raisinville Township supervisor until 2000, and Ron Blank, owner of Franklin Homes, have applied for contract rezoning with the township that would allow for construction of 450 "stick-built" homes on farmland owned until recently by Lynn & Dorothy Albring.

Mr. Brant's group, Bedford Partners, LLC, recently purchased the property for an undisclosed price and is seeking to rezone approximately half of the property from its current agricultural designation to single-family residential; and 2 acres with frontage along Lewis Avenue to commercial. Most of the remaining land is already zoned single-family residential.

Mr. Brant has applied for "contract" rezoning of the land, the first such application the township has received under a new law signed in January that allows developers to propose certain conditions on their applications to make them more attractive to local elected officials who oversee rezoning decisions.

"I thought it was a great piece of property," Mr. Brant said, adding that he and his partners have already met with officials from Bedford Public Schools to study what impact their development will have on the district.

"The infrastructure's there. There's plenty of water. There's plenty of sewer. Over the 10 or 12-year period that it will take to fill this subdivision up, [Bedford Public Schools] will get an increase of about 20 kids a year."

The district's enrollment, upon which much of its operating funding relies, has declined for several years. School officials revealed last week that they are projecting 45 students less in the fall.

In December, another development group that included local builders Bill Decker, Jr., and Jeff Wehrle, held an option on the Albring's 140 acres and applied to have it rezoned to accommodate 332 homes. But their application was met with opposition from neighbors and a local advocacy group called 'Stop the Madness' that seeks to limit Bedford Township's rate of growth. One large hurdle the effort seemed unable to overcome was getting adequate water and sewer service to the property.

The rezoning application was tabled before the Bedford Township Board had an opportunity to vote on it, and the group later withdrew from the project.

Mr. Brant and his partners are proposing 450 homes with varying lot sizes and price points ranging "realistically" from a high of $320,000 to a low of $180,000, he said.

The land along Lewis Avenue that is in the request to be rezoned to commercial would be left vacant, Mr. Brant said. He said he plans to name the development in honor of the Albring Family.

Mr. Brant, who is an owner of Intec Engineering and Zink-Covell Excavating, both of Samaria, said he has secured enough frontage along Lewis Avenue to ensure unencumbered access to the water and sewer lines there, and that his firms will allow him to develop the property less expensively than others might be able to do.

"Somebody's going to [rezone the property eventually]. That is a prime piece of property, and we're confident that the zoning is coming," Mr. Brant said.

"From a legal standpoint, I think the rezoning of the property is inevitable. It's also a natural extension of what we were doing with Intec and Zink-Covell. I should be able to control the pace of design, the pace of construction, so it should cost me significantly less than what it might someone else."

Although Mr. Brant filed his application with the township last week, the matter won't receive its first hearing before the township plannning commission until June 22 because of previous commission commitments.

It would then go to the County Planning Commission in July and appear before the Bedford Township Board for a final vote in late July or early August.



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