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The Journal Gazette

Friday, April 20, 2018 1:00 am

Despite criticism, zoning OK'd for rural gas station

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Over the objections of nearby residents, a Shell gas station/convenience store at the southwest corner of Bass and North Thomas roads was approved Thursday by the Allen County Plan Commission.

More than a dozen residents spoke against the plan for a portion of Wayne Township during its public hearing April 12, saying the business wasn't needed and its traffic and noise would detract from a mostly residential neighborhood.

“I certainly understand some of the statements opposed to this project,” said David Bailey, plan commission member. But he added the proposal had several features designed to lessen impact on neighbors. He then introduced a resolution to rezone the land from single-family residential to general commercial.

The resolution, and an accompanying primary development plan, passed unanimously, with plan commissioner Renee Fishering recusing herself from the vote. After the meeting, she declined to say why, except that it was on advice of the plan commission's attorney, Robert Eherenman.

He said that under the law, no reason for recusal need be given.

As part of the approval, the applicant, Black Gold Ventures LLC of Bluffton, agreed to a written commitment that if the property was rezoned to general commercial, then all uses under that classification except a gas station would be excluded. The commitment applies to the land, not just the applicant.

At the public hearing, commissioners were told of buffering and screening plans and that the business, which would include two additional retail areas inside the store, was being built lower than the surrounding grade to minimize visibility to neighbors.

No fireworks

In other business, the plan commission approved a rezoning to general commercial to allow retail uses for a property at 13700 Fairview Drive in Cedar Creek Township.

That proposal also was opposed at last week's public hearing. Residential neighbors said the applicant, Elmer Lengacher of Grabill, had proposed fireworks as the land's upcoming retail business.

Lengacher now has signed a written commitment excluding that use and several automotive-related and other uses, said Michelle Wood, senior planner with the Department of Planning Services.

Commission members confirmed that a Grabill Town Council vote against the project was based on the fireworks concern before unanimously approving the rezoning.

Developing areas

Commission members also approved sending two economic development proposals advanced by the Allen County Redevelopment Commission to the county commissioners for a vote.

Proposed are a new economic development area called the Lafayette Center Corner Economic Development Area and an amended plan for the Dupont-Diebold Economic Area.

The former is at the northwest corner of Fogwell Parkway and Lafayette Center Road near General Motors in Lafayette Township.

The latter adds a second allocation area, the Diebold Corner Allocation Area, at the northeast corner of Dupont and Diebold roads, which includes land approved for a dual-branded luxury Hilton Garden Inn hotel and accompanying commercial area.

If county commissioners approve, the measures would return to the redevelopment commission for a public hearing and a final vote.

rsalter@jg.net