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Published: Friday, 7/17/2009

Suit aims to reverse zoning vote in Bedford Township

BY MARK REITER
BLADE STAFF WRITER

MONROE - Almost two months after Bedford Township voters struck down the rezoning of his land at Sterns Road and Lewis Avenue, auto dealer Jon Whitman has gone to court to reverse the referendum.

Mr. Whitman, owner of Whitman Ford, filed suit last week in Monroe County Circuit Court to change the zoning of vacant land he owns next to the dealership.

The township board last year approved zoning modifications requested by Mr. Whitman on five of six parcels. However, the land use changes were overturned in May by voters. It is now zoned C-2 commercial, while the rest is single-family residential.

The lawsuit, assigned to Judge Joseph Costello, Jr., seeks an injunction to stop the township from interfering in the development of the 34 acres and proceed with the zoning modifications that Mr. Whitman requested last year.

Mr. Whitman claims the zoning changes he wants follow the township master plan. The lawsuit claims the existing zoning is inappropriate, illegal, and unreasonable.

Mr. Whitman also said in the suit the township's denial of the requested zoning changes was arbitrary, capricious, and discriminatory.

Township Supervisor Walt Wilburn said action taken by the board in December on Mr. Whitman's zoning requests was handled fairly.

"We were doing the best job we could within the law for Mr. Whitman and for the community," he said.

Land owned by Mr. Whitman was the subject of 2004 zoning lawsuit he filed after the township denied zoning changes that would have allowed the construction of a Wal-Mart on the property.

Among claims made in the lawsuit were that the township had for many years mistakenly listed a portion of the land as commercial when it was actually zoned residential.

Mr. Whitman said he had relied on the township zoning maps to negotiate with potential buyers and developers for his property.

In a 2007 decision, Judge Costello ruled against claims by Mr. Whitman that the township board's actions on zoning requests were arbitrary and capricious.

Citizen's group Bedford

watch.com, which formed years ago in reaction to plans to develop a Wal-Mart on the site, got the referendum issue on the May ballot after gathering signatures on petitions.

Doug Bermick, a member of the group, said the existing zoning should stay in place because township voters decisively struck down the changes.

"It was legally voted on by the people of the township in the recent referendum," Mr. Bermick said. "The will of the people should be upheld."

Contact Mark Reiter at:

markreiter@theblade.com

or 419-724-6199.



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