FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) — Residents of southwest Allen County are speaking out against a proposed medical complex ahead of a vote to rezone the property.
The Planning Commission is expected to vote Thursday on rezoning for a proposed medical center in southwest Fort Wayne. IU Health is asking for the change so it can build a medical campus at Lower Huntington Road near I-69. However, southwest residents Andrea Milliman and Jenna Thiele said they cannot get behind the proposed medical complex because of how it would change the area they call home.
“It’s a very, very quiet neighborhood,” said Milliman, who lives in the Prairie Meadows neighborhood right up the road from the proposed project site. “You can see a ton of stars out here at nighttime and this would just change the rural feel of what we have.”
Milliman moved to her home in the Prairie Meadows neighborhood five years ago, before an IU Health medical center was proposed for the area. Her family chose to build where they did because of the rural surroundings. She fears the rural area she loves so much will disappear if IU Health is allowed to move forward with their complex.
“Obviously, if a hospital comes in, there are more things that just simply need to go along with the hospital to make it comfortable for the people that are going to the hospital and their families and everything,’ Milliman said. “We don’t necessarily have a problem with a low level, low density, low-intensity medical office building, but to put a mega-hospital that they say will be probably about the size of Parkview and Lutheran right there just does not seem to make sense.”
Thiele lives about four miles away from the site, and while she cannot even see the project from her home she said a medical complex would cause a ripple effect felt for miles.
“The increase in traffic, which is going to majorly impact our roads out here, I mean, it’s a rural road,” said Thiele. “Not only that, I’m personally very concerned about, what if the Indiana [Department of Transportation] decides they need to widen the road, widen Redding or out here on Aboite?”
“You’re talking more noise from ambulances and helicopters,” added Millman. “And it would just make the roads around us highly congested, Homestead Road from 24, all the way down to Lower Huntington.”
Thiele said upgrading roads in the area could have negative impacts on historic and environmental highlights in the area, such as the wetlands or remnants of the Wabash-Erie Canal.
“Historically speaking, because there aren’t a whole lot of remains left of the Wabash Erie Canal, but what is left is, is right out here on you know, the front side of our property,” Thiele said. “It also would run from Redding all the way down to the aqueduct that you can still see today and so for us, we’re concerned, how is this going to ultimately affect us in a traffic sense, safety sense, but also historically speaking.”
As far as the wetlands are concerned, Thiele said they sustain important ecosystems in the area and also keep flooding at bay for homes in the area. She fears that the medical complex construction and the potential it brings for more development could jeopardize the existence of the wetlands.
“If you look up any information about wetlands are some of the most sensitive and important ecosystems that exist,” said Thiele. “So you have to take that into consideration, and that’s one of my biggest concerns, especially since Eagle Marsh is right out here, along with Arrowhead Marsh.”
Thiele and Millman said they feel misled about the project because renderings show a one-story complex while IU Health is asking the Planning Commission to waive height restrictions.
“[Their application] specifically says that they’re asking for height waivers for 50-foot, 75-foot and 150-foot buildings,” said Thiele. “The height of Parkview regional is 165-feet. So you’re talking an eight-to-ten-story facility. I mean, that’s massive, and ultimately, that’s going to affect the overall landscape of this rural setting.”
“Southwest Six is supposed to, according to their plan, remain agricultural and residential for its entirety, except for this very small section by the interstate, which does make sense,” Milliman said. “But when you put in a hospital, it’s going to grow and grow and grow, and we all know what has happened with Parkview and around Lutheran and this will become a major growth and it’s not supposed to be that way.”
The Planning Commission is set to meet on Thursday at 1 p.m.