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Commission dumps commercial rezoning

'Everyone is afraid of change...'

November 10, 2010 - Brandon Twp.- Not in my backyard.

This seems to describe the sentiment of several residents who attended Tuesday night's township planning commission meeting and voiced their opposition to a request by Mark Cherry, owner of Country Oaks Landscape Supply, 3967 Seymour Lake Road, to have his property rezoned from residential to commercial. Currently, Cherry has a consent judgment to operate his business on the 12.890 acre parcel of land.

"I have no problem with the current use of the property," said Anthony Spencer, a neighbor on Sashabaw Road. "They have been a good neighbor. If they continue as a landscape company there is no need to rezone...If they were rezoned to C-2, what can be allowed there? The blinking light (at Seymour Lake and Sashabaw roads) can barely sustain traffic now... My understanding was it would be a residential area when I bought there... I want my family to enjoy it for that use."

He and other area residents said they are concerned a gas station or strip mall could be built on the property if it were zoned C-2, a move that would increase noise, lights, traffic and pollution, and said they don't want the corner of Sashabaw and Seymour Lake to one day look like the corner of Sashabaw and Clarkston roads, where a number of businesses are located.

Planning Commission Member Donna Ferrara, who said she owns a rental property in that area, acknowledged the concerns.

"Once it's rezoned, our hands are tied and we can't pick and choose what goes in there," she said. "Why rezone now, unless there is something on the back burner?"

Cherry said he has no plans to sell the property. His motivation is only to increase the value of the property and be able to operate without a consent judgment, which he believes the property has had dating back to the 70s. He bought the business in 2003, from his uncle and father, who had owned it since 1990.

"I'm not planning on selling anytime soon, but I want the property to have more flexibility and value and don't want to have to go to the board with small changes," he said. "We won't do anything out of line. It's in the master plan to be zoned commercial and it's time. I'm not expanding, just trying to make it better."

Laura Kreps of Carlisle/Wortman Associates, the township's planning consultant firm, recommended the planning commission approve the request to rezone the property as commercial.

The planning commission members unanimously denied the request. Cherry called the motion unacceptable.

"Everyone is afraid of change," he said. "This area could use some income and I'm going to fight this. They didn't give a good enough reason to turn it down. I'm taking the township to court."

Ron Haase, planning commission chairman, said Cherry can still appeal to the township board of trustees or come back to the planning commission with a specific site plan, or a request to be rezoned C-1, which is stricter on the kind of businesses allowed at the location.

"Just because he is in the master plan, doesn't mean it can be rezoned without a plan for what he wants to put on that piece of property," Haase said. "You have to take the neighbors into consideration if you're going to change something like that... I don't think he would have a case in court."

"We have a commercial district already zoned," continued Haase. "I don't think we need more, there is plenty on M-15. When that fills ups, then it's a different story and that's not a concern in this economy. You can drive up M-15 and see the for sale signs."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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