Final Charis House decision tonight

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission meets this evening for it’s monthly Business Meeting.  The agenda may be downloaded here.  The meeting begins at 5:00 pm in the City Council Chamber at the City-County Building.

A lot hinges on this decision and not just for the Charis House or Wells Corridor Business Association, but for other neighborhood associations and taxpayers as well.

A development of this type on this property would fly in the face of efforts of the WCBA and Bloomingdale Neighborhood who spent many volunteer hours on Community Development Area Plans or CDAPs.  These CDAPs spell out the types of development and where it should go, that a neighborhood desires.  It’s been estimated that over 5,000 hours were invested by citizens to develop these plans.  This does not take into account the expense incurred by the City through staff time in helping to draft the plans.

The effect of a “yes” vote to other Neighborhood Associations will be a mixed signal over whether or not their CDAPS will be backed up by the very agency who encouraged and guided their creation.  I say mixed because last month, the Plan Commission voted almost unanimously to block development of a convenience store in the southeast quadrant.  When the issue came before the City Council last week, this whole issue over CDAPs came into play and was hotly debated by the Council with a final defeat of the proposal.  So part of the frustration citizens feel is the inconsistency of decisions.

Another issue, which even more directly affects you as a taxpaying citizen, is the City’s commitment to build a pump station to keep the property dry during flooding.  This property was originally populated by several residences.  These residences were bought out after the flooding of the 80s.  In the recent floods earlier this year, the property was again under water.  In a recent Plan Commission meeting, it was stated that the City would build a pump station on the property to alleviate this concern.  Even so, a permanent pump station would be at least a year or two down the road.  In the meantime, in the event of flooding, a temporary pump could be relocated to this property.  But this would mean another neighborhood or area would go unserved.

The other angle with building a pump station or even providing a temporary solution, is that taxpayers would have to bear the expense.  I don’t have an estimate on how much a permanent station would cost, but it probably wouldn’t be cheap.  Given the fact that we are facing a CSO alleviation project of huge proportions, is this a wise expenditure?  Especially given the fact that since a non-profit agency now owns this property, it is off the tax rolls?  The City will receive no revenue from anything developed on the property.  The only reason for the expenditure would be a direct result of the Charis House’s desire to build there.  Is this fair to taxpayers?

As mentioned before, this is one of only a couple of properties left that can be directly tied into our riverfront.  Sunday, I had the opportunity to sit by the St. Mary’s River at the Old Fort.  In the space of an hour, two boats, two kayaks and a canoe went floating by.  Our citizens want to be on the rivers as borne out by the North River Now charettes and BluePrint and BluePrint Plus projects.  This property, while behind a levee, can still provide access to the river.  If you think that the levee cuts off the access, I’d suggest you talk to the owners of Fort Wayne Outfitters.  Allowing Charis House to be built here because it’s the first development in years to come along would eliminate consideration of other possible projects – projects that would be a much better fit for this property.  You can build a Charis House anywhere, you can’t say that about Fort Wayne Outfitters.

An argument has been made, and to a point, a valid one, about property owner’s rights.  Yes a property owner should be able to do what he wants with his property.  However, this should be within reason and a good fit with the surrounding community.  Part of deciding if it’s reasonable and a good fit is determined by zoning classifications.  The other part should be decided by CDAPs and the comprehensive plan for the entire City/County.

I know there are unmeasurable residual benefits from an organization such as Charis House, but do these justify throwing out a community’s desires?  Do these unmeasurable benefits equate to the cost of a pump station?  These are the issues to be decided tonight by the Plan Commission.

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