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Published: Tuesday, 8/16/2005

Monroe vets' battle now on home front

BY GEORGE J. TANBER
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Edith Tajak talks with residents Dale Hollmann, left, Mike Banes, and Christopher Clayton on the porch of the veterans' residence in Monroe. Edith Tajak talks with residents Dale Hollmann, left, Mike Banes, and Christopher Clayton on the porch of the veterans' residence in Monroe.
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MONROE - The dispute between a group of veterans living in a residential house in East Monroe and the neighbors who don't want them there escalated yesterday.

The veterans and their supporters marched from the house to City Hall, where they asked city officials at last night's council meeting to leave them alone because they hadn't caused any problems and have upgraded the house.

The disgruntled neighbors also turned up at the meeting, where they asked city officials to act on their July 28 notice to the owner of the veterans' house, the Vietnam Veterans of Michigan, or VVM, that they are not in compliance with the city's residential zoning code.

Last night, Mayor John Iacoangeli asked City Manager Debbie Manns and Assistant City Attorney Timothy Laitur to study the matter and report to council at its next meeting in two weeks before any action is taken against the veterans.

Earlier yesterday, Ms. Manns called Wayne Burdeaux, an organizer of the neighborhood group, to tell him the city filed a complaint against the VVM for not conforming to the zoning code. The news tempered the group's anger before the meeting, but they were still waiting to see a copy of the complaint before commenting on the action.

"This has been a difficult one for us to nail down in large part because of the changes in the number of residents in the home," Ms. Mann said.

The news of the complaint angered VVM President Sandie Wilson. "We are very determined that vets are going to live in this house. If they want to go to court, we'll go to court," she said.

Ms. Wilson of Milan, Mich., spent part of yesterday seeking support from the regional office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and Michigan State University's extension office.

VVM officials are still trying to figure out how their project, aimed at providing room and board to economically disadvantaged veterans, gained the angst of so many people after initially being accepted.

Ms. Wilson cited an April 2, 2004, letter signed by Zoning Inspector James Brunt giving the group permission to live in the three-story brick home. She also said the city granted her group a tax abatement for the project and a certificate of occupancy good until 2007.

Shortly after that, the group hired veteran Jeff Honeycutt to manage the house. Things did not work out with Mr. Honeycutt, who was fired, according to Ms. Wilson, a retired U.S. Army lieutenant colonel. Mr. Honeycutt moved in across the street and has been instrumental in organizing the neighborhood against the VVM house, the VVM and city officials said.



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