FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Fort Wayne City Council voted to rezone a residential section of West Jefferson Boulevard to make way for Peter Franklin Jewelers to build a small shopping complex.
The vote was highly contested.
Council voted 5-3 in favor of moving forward with rezoning. Councilman Michael Barranda (R-at-large) abstained because his law firm had done work with a party involved in the debate.
More than a hundred people attended Tuesday’s meeting. Many in attendance live near the planned development area. Discussion before the vote lasted nearly three hours.
Senator David Long (R-Fort Wayne) and his wife Melissa addressed council on behalf of the property owner Mary Ann Hunter, Sen’ Long’s mother-in-law. The family wants to sell the property to the jewelry company. Peter Franklin Jewelers would build in the 4900 and 5000 blocks between Jefferson Pointe and Time Corners on the south side of the road.
Senator Long said it’s clear that West Jefferson Boulevard has changed over the years. He pointed out there are several commercial businesses along the road in that area and said this would just follow the trend.
The planning commission recommended the city vote against moving forward with the project. Councilman Tom Freistroffer (R-at-large) is a member of the Plan Commission and wanted the Department of Planning Services to do a study of the road before moving forward with rezoning the area from residential to commercial.
Residents living nearby argued the 38-thousand square foot project will lower their quality of life. Several of them addressed council and expressed concerns about noise, increased traffic, and the impact a commercial area could have on their property value.
Tom Hayhurst, a former democratic city councilman, said he plans to see if there’s anything more they can do to stop the project from moving forward, including potential legal action.
“We’re going to fight back in any way we can and win the battle long term,” said Hayhurst, President of the Westwood Fairway Neighborhood Association. ”We have to protect our residential area while we encourage business along that corridor.”
The Westwood Fairway Neighborhood sits up against the property on West Jefferson Blvd.
The owner of Peter Franklin Jewelers said he’s willing to work with neighbors.
“I’m a resident,” said James Ball, Co-owner of Peter Franklin Jewelers. “I’m a local developer. I live here. I’m going to see them. I will have a business next to them. I want them to be as content and at peaceful as possible.”
Councilman Jason Arp (R-4th) who represents the district the property sits in, along with Tom Didier (R-3rd), John Crawford (R-at-large), Paul Ensley (R-1st), and Russ Jehl (R-2nd) voted in favor. Geoff Paddock (D-5th), Glynn Hines (D-6th), and Freistroffer voted against the proposal.