TEMPERANCE - Bedford Township board members couldn't have been more clear, citing 19 reasons why they said no to a plan to rezone 80 acres outside Temperance to make way for what would be the township's largest subdivision.
But the developer behind a plan to build 450-500 homes on 160 acres along Erie Road just outside Temperance said the official opposition to his proposal wasn't unexpected, or, frankly, more than a minor setback in his long-term plans.
"In the end, it'll be a subdivision," said former Raisinville Township Supervisor Mark Brant. "We've already scheduled a meeting with township officials to see if they're willing to work something out. But in the meantime, I'm going to have my engineers start work on the first 80 acres and we'll see what happens. It's either [going to be] the way I think is best for the township or the way they think is best for the township."
Mr. Brant and mobile home park developer Ron Blank are the main investors in Bedford Partners, LLC, which had requested that the township board to rezone 80 acres it owns just east of the Ann Arbor Railroad tracks and just north of the Village Meadows subdivision now under construction. The group also owns an adjacent 79-acre vacant parcel which is already zoned for residential development.
Mr. Brant said the opposition to his development is irrational, in that the 1978 zoning and the previous board's decision to allow the adjacent Village Meadows subdivision to be developed opened the door for his project.
"Basically, the [www.nomoresubs.com] people don't want to see anything happen there at all. But it's not practical that nothing's going to happen there at all. A subdivision's going in on Erie Road. I would think now's the time to say 'do we want a better subdivision or a regular subdivision'," Mr. Brant said.
After the township board unanimously rejected Bedford Partners' request earlier this month, Mr. Brant said he would move ahead with development of what he called a "cookie cutter" subdivision, beginning first on the 79-acre piece of farmland that has been zoned residential since 1978.
"[Going to court] is always an option. But going to court to try to press for the 'swan' version of a development is not going to be an option because we don't have the time to wait for something like that," Mr. Brant said. "So we're going to proceed with what the zoning will allow, which is 320 homes on that 80-acre parcel."
If Bedford Partners opts to file a lawsuit against the township, it's unlikely to catch township elected officials by surprise. Many said they fully expected their decision would land them in court, but they feel that they will be able to legally defend their position.
But township attorney Phil Goldsmith isn't quite so sure how things would work out if and when this rezoning case gets before a judge.
"That is awfully hard to say at this juncture. If it gets to a judge to make that call, he'd have a lot of expert testimony to decipher. There will be a lot of issues that the judge would hear," Mr. Goldsmith said.
"This probably is going to be a pretty close call. There are valid reasons not to rezone, and there are probably reasons for a judge to support the other side of the equation. This one could be too close to call, if you apply the case law to these sets of facts. I could see a judge going either way, so there's probably good reason for both sides to be confident," Mr. Goldsmith said.
Being in court on a zoning issue is certainly nothing new in Bedford Township. In fact, over the last several years, several rezoning rejections have worked their way before a judge. Most recently, the previous township board's decision to deny Whitman Ford's request to rezone more than 30 acres surrounding the dealership to commercial drew a lawsuit from the longtime township dealership. A date has not been set for trial, court officials said.