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Published: Tuesday, 9/13/2005

Bedford due to vote on settlement of 1993 lawsuit


TEMPERANCE - The Bedford Township board is to vote tonight on a final settlement in a 12-year-old lawsuit that has hung over three different sets of township elected officials.

The 1993 case, Inverness vs. Bedford Township, was originally about a denied rezoning request for 11 acres of land adjacent to the Inverness "Too" Mobile Home Park along Lewis Avenue near the state line.

The land was ultimately rezoned and the park expanded under the terms of a then-secret settlement agreement that was reached after the first day of trial in the case in 1995.

But 10 years later, the case remains open because some terms of the original settlement - those dealing with damages arising from the township's original refusal to rezone the land - were found to be illegal.

Details of the latest proposed settlement agreement were being withheld until they are laid out to the public at tonight's meeting, when a vote will be taken, township Supervisor Walt Wilburn said. He did say, however, that the township's total portion of the proposed settlement would be less than the costs it would likely incur for legal fees if it returned to court.

If approved tonight, the costs of the settlement would be split evenly between the township's general fund and its insurance carrier, Mr. Wilburn said.

If the board approves the settlement, Bedford Township will become one of just a few municipalities in Michigan that has been successful in fending off development of a mobile home park. The parks are largely viewed unfavorably in the state because Michigan taxes mobile homes as vehicles at $36 per year instead of based on their value, as are so-called "stick built" homes.

The original 1995 settlement, which had been sealed from the public, gave Inverness owner Germano Management Co. five years to secure land on which to build another mobile home park in Bedford Township, with township officials originally agreeing to alter their master plan to accommodate the development.

Three days before the time was up, the Livonia, Mich.-based developer sent the township a letter indicating it had purchased an option on a large parcel of land next to the Mohawk Trails Mobile Home Park in Temperance on which it wished to build. When residents discovered what had happened five years before and how it would affect them in 2000, they showed up in force at a township board meeting and castigated those board members who had signed off on the settlement in 1995.

Board members at the time reneged on their predecessors' commitment and returned to court, only to have the damages portion of the 1995 agreement thrown out because it "disenfranchised" residents of the neighboring subdivision who would have had no recourse to fight a mobile home park next to their homes. That verdict was appealed in 2001 and upheld by the Michigan Court of Appeals earlier this year.

Contact Larry P. Vellequette

at lvellequette@theblade.com

or 419-724-6091.

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