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Published: Wednesday, 9/28/2005

Bedford Township: Controversial ordinance is amended by board

BY LARRY P. VELLEQUETTE
BLADE STAFF WRITER

TEMPERANCE - The Bedford Township Board last week stuck a fork in a 3-year-old experiment aimed at improving the facades of its local businesses, and nobody could be happier that it's over than the people who were most impacted by the controversial commercial architecture ordinance.

Members of the Bedford Industrial and Commercial Association celebrated a small victory as the township board unanimously amended the architecture ordinance that had largely been the reason for BICA's creation.

The new architecture ordinance eliminates many of the tough design requirements outlined in the 2002 architecture ordinance, replacing them with design suggestions that appear in a new design manual that will be distributed to developers when they submit a project proposal.

Jay Cousino, co-owner of Temperance Body Shop, had his business put in the crosshairs when it was identified by an early draft of the new design manual as containing undesirable architectural features like a flat roof. He said he was glad the township had amended the ordinances, but he said business owners don't need more motivation to make their businesses look good.

"They made it so hard for businesses to operate. Everybody wants their business to be presentable and appealing," Mr. Cousino said.

In fact, the body shop is in the process of submitting plans for a small expansion that will allow for a pitched roof to be erected over the older portions of his building.

"We just got the side lot paved, and we've put a big [planter box] in front to try and make it more attractive," Mr. Cousino said.

Whitman Ford owner Jon Whitman was in the forefront of efforts to repeal the lighting, landscape, and architectural ordinances. He said the amendments were long overdue, and probably would have been overturned by a court, anyway.

"It was such a ridiculously written law that I think it wouldn't have withstood a [court] challenge," Mr. Whitman said.

In fact, the body shop is in the process of submitting plans for a small expansion that will allow for a pitched roof to be erected over the older portions of his building.

"We just got the side lot paved, and we've put a big [planter box] in front to try and make it more attractive," Mr. Cousino said.

Whitman Ford owner Jon Whitman was in the forefront of efforts to repeal the lighting, landscape, and architectural ordinances.

He said the amendments were long overdue, and probably would have been overturned by a court, anyway.

"It was such a ridiculously written law that I think it wouldn't have withstood a [court] challenge," Mr. Whitman sai

Mr. Whitman has an open lawsuit against the township stemming from a zoning dispute that arose after his vocal opposition to the ordinances.

The lawsuit is in depositions right now, with an expected trial set to take place sometime next year.

Mr. Whitman said he didn't want to gloat about the death of the township's commercial ordinances as they were, but he regretted their impact on those who didn't share "the deep pockets" that some had to fight them.

"I think it hurt a lot of little guys, and I think it's sad that it deliberately hurt people," Mr. Whitman said.

One of those "little guys" was Tom Start, the longtime owner of Start's Auto Parts at 8012 Lewis Ave.

Mr. Start had been in discussions with the township about expanding his business and had submitted drawings when the ordinances were passed in August, 2002. He said he had no idea they were coming.

"We're out some money," Mr. Start said. "We were getting ready to go, and we had to put together a whole other building plan" after the ordinances were enacted.

Mr. Start, whose business has operated at its location since 1959, said he still has plans to roughly triple the size of his 2,500-square-foot store, and has been waiting to see what the township ultimately enacted once it decided to amend the ordinances.

"I think this is a big improvement," Mr. Start said.

"I think [the previous township officials who put together the original ordinances] had some great ideals, but I think they were a little late getting to the table.

"The township is fairly well built up right now. You have to wonder that if you have a building that's good enough in 1959, why do you have to change the appearance just because you were going to do an addition," Mr. Start said.

Mr. Whitman, one of BICA's founding members, said the organization may have trouble staying relevant, but it will always be needed.

"I think it'll be around in some shape forever. People may need these folks to protect us. Nobody wants to get hurt like we got hurt this last time," Mr. Whitman said.



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