Schwartz Rd. housing project proposal resurfaces, residents still unhappy

Local News

The controversial Schwartz Rd. Housing project in St. Joseph Township has re-surfaced with some changes. The project was voted down in May due to fears of how the project would change the area’s agricultural nature. People that live in the area say this new proposal is still no good.

Developer North Eastern Group filed an application with the Allen County Department of Planning Services for 84 single-family homes at the 7700 Block of Schwartz Rd. This is in addition to the 89 single-family homes that were already approved. The planning commission said the total number of homes may be revised down to 155 homes for the 22 acre project.

This new proposal differs from the original one in that plans to build rental duplexes were axed, and instead the whole project will be single-family homes.

The Protect Schwartz Road group said this project adds too many homes to their agricultural area. They are not against the project, but say this amount of homes changes their culture which is meant for country living. It would draw more traffic to the area, which would makes it less safe for their kids and the Amish people who nearby.

“We are deeply disappointed by the surprising discovery of this proposal,” they said in a statement released Monday. “We are most disappointed by the overwhelming refusal to involve the community in the development of this plan. While they previously indicated that they would be more than willing to include our community in the development planning process, it is now clear to see that these were simply empty promises made to silence the community.”

North Eastern’s Ric Zehr said they are planning a neighborhood meeting for the first week of January. They like to submit their proposal application first before holding any discussions.

Zehr explained that according to county ordinances they only have to look at use of the land for their proposal to be legit. They are requesting to build a residential neighborhood next to other residential neighborhoods, which he said is perfectly legal. He referred to Lakes of Woodfield to the east, Acacia Creek to the west, and Woodfield Place to the South, all single-family home subdivisions.

“This is an appropriate housing project because it is compatible with all the residential neighborhoods surrounding it,” he said. “We’re building residential next to residential and that’s compatible use.”

The Protect Schwartz Road group feels deceived by not knowing of these plans, but want to be in the loop from here on out. 

“Since the beginning of this project proposal, we have demonstrated that we are not opposed to
development,” their statement continued. “We have repeatedly asked the Allen County Plan Commission, the Allen County Commissioners, and the development company NWM (including its spokesperson Ric Zehr) to be included in the planning process. Our hope is that going forward, we will have more opportunities to work hand in hand with NWM and the County Commissioners to shape the future of this community as a cohesive whole.”

Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters saw the first proposal back in May fail in a 1-2 vote and has no prediction on the success for this new one. 

“You don’t know how the vote’s going to go,” he said. “I don’t know specifically what the developer is going to present, nor do the residents at this point. I think it’s important that there is a level of communication between the developer and the residents to ensure that people can walk away comfortable from what it is they’ve heard.”

The planning commission is holding a public hearing on the Schwartz Road project on Jan 10.

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