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The Journal Gazette

Thursday, March 08, 2018 1:00 am

St. Joseph Twp. housing opposed

Couple lead fight against projects


Neighbors of the proposed Woodfield residential developments in St. Joseph Township are opposing plans to create more than 200 single-family homes and rental duplexes off Schwartz Road.

Janese Latimer-Pierson and her husband, Harold Pierson Jr., say they've collected more than 400 signatures on a petition against the proposed The Lakes at Woodfield and The Village of Woodfield.

The developments have been proposed by NWM Corp. of Fort Wayne, represented by Ric Zehr, director of development strategies for NWM and its affiliated North Eastern Group.

For the project to go forward, rezoning from agricultural to single-family and multiple-family residential must be secured from the Allen County Plan Commission, which also must approve primary development plans. The projects will have their public hearing at 1 p.m. March 15 in Room 35 of Citizens Square.

The Piersons, who live on Woodfield Place, say they oppose the developments because of their size and the composition of the proposed housing.

The neighborhood lacks adequate roads, and the 89 less-than-half-acre single-family lots in the 24-acre The Lakes at Woodfield and the 22.5-acre, 130-unit rental duplex component, The Village at Woodfield, are incompatible with existing uses, they said.

“The main thing we are in opposition about is that this (development) is just not cohesive with the current conditions and setting we have,” Janese Pierson said in an interview this week. “One of the big concerns we have is we want owner-occupied development.”

Nearby lots generally are two or more acres and owned by residents, and property values start at $400,000, Harold Pierson said.

The couple said neighbors also were concerned because of increased traffic on Schwartz Road, which is narrow and deteriorating and now carries substantial horse-and-buggy traffic.

The project, on the west side of the 7700 to 7900 blocks of Schwartz, is largely surrounded by farmland. Its single access point is on Schwartz, according to plans submitted to the Department of Planning Services.

The Piersons said many residents did not know about the developments because only a handful of properties abut it.

Notification letters were sent only to owners of adjacent properties, as is the general practice in rezoning requests.

Janese Pierson said she and her husband went door-to-door and helped set up a meeting with Zehr that about 30 neighbors attended. But the developer offered no compromises, she said.

She added that Zehr told her the land for the development is a property that had been in the Zehr family before being sold to the current sellers, who are moving.

She said he told her the land was sold contingent upon rezoning and the development's plans being approved.

A call to Zehr on Wednesday seeking comment was not returned. Zehr last year scaled back the Sage Pointe development off Crawford Road in Perry Township after neighbors' opposition.

The Woodfield project will be heard at the same meeting as Copper Creek, a similar NWM proposal for a 677-lot single-family home development and 242 rental duplexes plus a commercial development in Perry Township.

That site is on the east side of Indiana 3 north of Hathaway Road and west of Dunton Road.

Woodfield opponents have a website at protectschwartz The Piersons said they are encouraging neighbors to attend the public hearing.