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Superior OKs controversial zoning change

Mark Thompson-Kolar
The Ypsilanti Press

SUPERIOR TWP. — The Township Board narrowly passed a controversial zoning change Monday, voting 4-3 after a vigorous discussion that involved nearly all of the 35 people at the board meeting.

The vote was on developer Harry Durbin's request to change the zoning of a 68-acre change on the zoning of a 68-acre plot on Geddes Road from rural to planned community status.

Durbin plans to build a subdivision on the land, which lies in the Geddes Road/Huron River corridor between Gale and Dixboro roads and is adjacent to the river. Durbin said he hopes to be able to hook the subdivision up to the Ann Arbor Township sewer system.

The Superior Township Planning Commission last week voted 4-3 to support the rezoning proposal.

Township Supervisor Michael Ricci attacked Durbin's plan, finding fault with a lack of open space, excessive steepness of slopes and poor soil for septic tanks. He also questioned the quality of Durbin's overall plan and the desirability and availability of sewers for the development. "Does the Board want to invite sewer into this area of land?" Ricci said.

"I've never asked for any waivers. ... I've never been disapproved [for any plans]," said Durbin. "You must ask yourself the question, "Is this development good for the township or not?"

Durbin said he had spoken by telephone with Ricci, requesting that Ricci write to the Washtenaw County Drain Commission to request water and sewer hookups.

Ricci denied talking to Durbin and told him he was out of order.

Trustee Tom Freedman said, "I don't see the introduction of sewer into this 'division as a threat to the Geddes Road/Huron River Corridor."

But trustees Colleen O'Neal and David Phillips criticized the plan.

"Our own consultants have reservations. ... Our engineers recommend denial ... until we're satisfied with the plans," O'Neal said. She also said the board members had had little time to study all of the paperwork surrounding Durbin's proposal.

The crowd was divided in its opinion of the proposal.

Dave Ingersoll, of Dixboro Road, spoke against the proposal. "I truly feel that the issue of sewer down there is very important and we cannot approach it in a piecemeal fashion."

Certified engineer Ellen Kurath, of Hickman Road, expressed similar sentiments. "If the development isn't built to standards, the residents will have to pay for the problems when they result," she said.

She also stressed the need for well-planned sewers and roads. "I think it's better for the township to have a reputation for having the proper facilities."

Others defended the proposal, calling Durbin a conscientious builder.

Ann Arbor lawyer Ray Bishop said he believes the area between Detroit and Ann Arbor inevitably will be developed. "Harry Durbin is a very good developer. ... I think what will happen if you don't work with people like Durbin is that you're going to get some people in here who are going to develop some schlock housing," Bishop said.

A retired builder urged the board to pass the amendment, saying, "Throw the burden of proof on the developer" to let Durbin research all the details and create a final plot plan for the board to approve.

Durbin said he was relieved that the board passed the proposal.

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