Fairmount Place ‘Letters to the Editor’

Last Saturday, the Journal Gazette printed a Letter to the Editor by Tuck Hopkins in support of the Charis House partial vacation request of Fairmount Place.  Several in the community have submitted letters to the Journal Gazette and News-Sentinel in opposition to the request, which curiously have not been printed.  I am printing these letters in this post.  Please note that the views expressed in these letters do no necessarily reflect mine (your blogmaster).

Don’t Ignore Planning

A new project proposal will soon come before the Ft. Wayne City Plan Commission and is being considered by City Council. As with most proposed projects, the merits of whether it moves forward will be evaluated on appropriate zoning, land use, and compatibility with the areas’ existing uses and future plans.

Charis House is proposing to build a group home with up to 150 beds at the southwest end of Wells St. along the St. Mary’s River. Almost anything could be built on this property zoned IN2.

However, correct zoning is a narrow view in light of overall community planning activities that have taken place the last several years including the Bloomingdale/Spy Run Community Development Area Plan, Downtown Blueprint Plus, and the Plan-It-Allen Comprehensive Plan. The recommendations and goals of the documents have take into serious consideration existing and future uses. This project violates major concepts within all of these community planning documents.

One concept is this properties potential for riverfront development. Every consultant who has worked with the planning to energize the heart of the City has stated riverfront development is a key component. The property Charis House plans to occupy was formerly populated with flood prone housing. All of the properties were bought with Government funds for flood mitigation with hopes for future uses that would benefit all citizens. This is prime real estate that can provide a much bigger benefit by fulfilling many needs of urban core revitalization.

The area is commonly called the Wells St. Corridor. This corridor lies within the Bloomingdale Neighborhood and is the second oldest business district in Fort Wayne. Most structures range from 75 and 125 years old. They are small in size ranging from several hundred square feet to a few thousand square feet. The adjacent business area was recently zoned CM5C which states: “…urban commercial corridors have special importance to the community because of their historic character, urban development patterns, relationship to the surrounding neighborhood, pedestrian oriented streetscapes, and distinct urban architecture and form.” The proposed Charis House will start at 30,000 square feet with plans to expand. This is totally out of context with the surrounding structures and uses.

Most buildings on the Corridor were built next to the sidewalk or just a few feet back. Parking is on the street or possibly in the back. This creates the cozy, welcoming feel of a pedestrian friendly shopping corridor. The proposed structure will have a minimum of 60 parking spaces in the front with more parking along the side and back. The entire complex will be fenced in and on lock down 24/7. This use will not protect, restore or enhance the existing neighborhood business districts.

The Corridor includes over 50 businesses with seven social service agencies operating within the ten block reach. One such agency is Hope Alive. They provide services similar to Charis House. Hope Alive operates out of two well kept, converted residential properties. That is a good fit. The sizes of these homes truly portray the group home setting. Charis House is calling their proposed project a group home, but the size is more like an institution.

The future use of the Wells Corridor is clearly defined within the planning documents. Many businesses along the Wells Corridor were recently awarded façade grants to restore the original luster of the buildings. Also, comprehensive street scape work will be completed this summer to restore and improve the pedestrian friendly feel and character of the corridor.

The current operation of Charis House is good for Ft. Wayne. Their need to expand might be real. Unfortunately, the proposed project of Charis House is not in keeping with planning for the revitalization of the Corridor and downtown.

Written by Dan Wire

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Which Charis House Plan?

Over a year ago Charis House officials met with Wells Corridor people to share their plans for a massive homeless shelter on land they had purchased at the south end of Wells St. Input was given at that time to Charis House that would help make the project a better fit with the neighborhood.

In late January of this year Charis House officials asked to be invited to the Bloomingdale Neighborhood meeting to present their final plan. Unveiled was a 30,000 sq.ft.,124 bed facility with possible expansion to 150 beds. None of the recommendations form the year before were taken into consideration. Also mentioned at that time was that available funding would be able to build the structure but that furnishing the inside would have to wait.

Shortly after the Bloomingdale meeting Charis House met with the Wells St. Business Corridor sharing the same plan and stating the cost was to be $3.2 million. When asked about finishing the inside the group was assured that total funding was available to complete the entire project at one time.

By mid February discussions about the project were increasing. A concerned resident was encouraged to contact Rev. Patty Crisp personally about the 68 bed facility, a serious deviation from the original bed count of 124 to 150.

After the public hearing held by the City Council the Journal Gazette reported the project to be 30,600 sq, ft., costing $4.5 million, and housing 42 – 88 beds. That same day the News Sentinel described it as a $2.8 million, 19,791 sq. ft. project of 124 beds with expansion possibilities to 150 beds.

All the specific information about this project comes from only one source, Charis House. So, just what do they plan to build? If the community is expected to support this project it deserves proper prior planning.

Written by: Bud Mendenhall

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A Helping Hand

The supporters of the proposed Charis House development repeatedly state that we all should support their cause and location. To not do so is to imply that you are unwilling to offer a helping hand and uncaring to the plight of the homeless.. Could the same be said about Charis House when it refuses to view the previous planning for the area that took years of work to compile?

Three officially adopted documents: Downtown Blueprint Plus, Bloomingdale/Spy Run Community Area Development Plan, and the Allen County Comprehensive Plan all address the area in question. Each of these planning guides state multiple times that the best potential for sustained growth in areas like this lies in emphasizing the historic, business, and pedestrian friendly nature of the area. Also noted is the need to development riverfront property with activities that will draw visitors and dollars to downtown.

Hundreds if not thousands of personal opinions have been heard and included within these planning documents. These people stepped up and offered a helpful hand when asked what they think would be best for the area. For Charis House to ignore this existing body of collective work seems quite selfish and unfriendly.

There are plenty of areas close to Community Corrections and the Courts, (which Charis House stated they need to be close to), that could accommodate this project and not step on the helping hands of others before them.

Written by: Audrey Stevenson

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Ignorance of the Law

Ask anyone who has received a speeding ticket, not knowing the speed limit does not get you out of a speeding ticket. A similar analogy could be made about the proposed development for Charis House.

Charis House wants to build a new structure at the South end of Wells Street. Unfortunately this group didn’t do a through job of understanding this area before they purchased the property. Multiple planning documents about the area do not support the type of development Charis House wants to build. The current zoning is IN2. Specifically stated for IN zoned properties is:” New residential uses are not permitted in IN zoning districts.” Their plan is assuming that the city street running through the property will be closed (vacated). Eliminating a city street can only be done with the approval of the City Council, which they have not obtained.

Finally, Charis House stated they have already invested almost three quarters of a million dollars on this project in property costs and engineering. As if to say, “Look at all the money we have spent. Won’t you allow us to develop even though we didn’t know the rules?”

Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

Written by: Miriam Larmore

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Not in my Backyard

In response to the letter from Tuck Hopkins, Chair of Fort Wayne Rescue Ministries, Inc. “Homeless people being turned away” he claims to be offended that opponents object to the size of the building. The building size and use is deemed unacceptable not by individuals but by multiple planning documents that frame what development would best serve the entire community at the Fairmount location. No one disputes the need Charis House has, just the proposed location.

He concludes with the baseless statement “just don’t build it in my backyard”. A sentiment that Reverend Chrisp, President of Charis House also expressed recently on television.

Let’s take a quick factual look at the backyards involved. Neither Hopkins nor Crisp live in Fort Wayne. So certainly the project won’t be in their backyards. Two of the many groups opposed include West Central Neighborhood Association and the Wells Corridor Business Association

The Wells Corridor backyard consists of a ten block stretch that is currently home to seven social agencies.  These include:

Allen County Community Corrections
Ft. Wayne Rescue Mission
Behavioral Sciences – Drug Dependency Clinic
Rosewater Water – Emotionally Disabled Services
3rd St. Church Of God – Community Harvest Food Bank
Church of the Devine Science
Hope Alive

Hope Alive operates two old Victorian homes providing shelter for homeless women and children just as Charis House. And, if you travel four blocks south of the Wells Corridor you’ll be at the current Charis House which is in the backyard of West Central Neighborhood Association.

When Hopkins and Chrisp point fingers, there are three pointing back at them. With money from 12,000 supporters they bought property that isn’t zoned properly, that falls within multiple planning documents for its use which is not aligned with the Charis House project, and has a city street right in the middle of it. The problem is not NIMBY. The problem is leadership leading with emotion without researching and revealing all the facts.

Written by: Gary Grossman

 

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