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The Journal Gazette

Friday, August 16, 2019 1:00 am

Neighbors not happy about housing plans

County board hears critics

ROSA SALTER RODRIGUEZ | The Journal Gazette

Fort Wayne's North Eastern Development Corp. had seven projects with 574 homes on the agenda of the Allen County Plan Commission's public hearing Thursday.

And the company, represented by Ric Zehr, faced substantial opposition to most of them from residents unhappy with small lots, site layouts, and existing and potential drainage and traffic problems.

One was so unhappy, he's put in an offer to buy the property proposed for one development, Belmont Woods, so it would not be developed according to North Eastern's plan.

More than a dozen people spoke against Belmont Woods, which would put 94 homes on 35.7 acres on the south side of the 6600 to 6900 blocks of Flutter Road north of Interstate 469 in St. Joseph Township.

Nearly that many opposed The Haven, which would bring 115 lots to 96.8 acres off North and South Hadley Road in Aboite Township.

Flutter Road resident Ron Straessle told plan commission members he put in “a backup offer” to buy the property Wednesday. He lives across Flutter from the proposed Belmont Woods.

He said he had the opportunity to buy the land in April but didn't because he “trusted” the developer, with whom he'd done business.

Straessle told The Journal Gazette he made a full-price offer. He said the current sale is contingent on approvals for development and if the site is not approved, he would develop it in a way “consistent with what we (nearby residents) want.”

The land has been listed on real estate sites for $525,000.

Other Belmont neighbors complained because many lots backed up to either Flutter or Young roads.

They said they weren't against single-family residential zoning for the site, which is now zoned agricultural. But, they said, the development plan was out of character with the rest of the neighborhood.

The proposed development's lots, many of which are 65 feet wide, also are too small, several said.

One opponent held up a tape measure to underscore the point that the lots would be only a bit wider than the meeting room, and another pointed out the lots are only a little wider than a mobile home lot.

Residents opposing The Haven said North Eastern's plan to use existing wetlands on the site to deal with storm water was not feasible.

In some cases, they said, the mostly wooded and vacant site does not prevent flooding in surrounding neighborhoods.

The Haven's 96.9 acres contain about 34 acres of wetlands. Zehr said they would be avoided as building sites and were taken into consideration in planning roads and overall layout.

The development has an unusual feature for Allen County, consisting of sections of homes in the $300,000 price range and a section where prices could range up to $850,000, Zehr said. The sections would be delineated with the aid of a roundabout near the entrance.

“This is a very challenging piece of ground (to develop),” Zehr said. “We think this will be a very attractive development because of a unique range of housing choices and price range and (the existence) of wetlands.”

Residents brought up potential traffic problems because of the site's entrance near Norfolk Southern train tracks, which border the northern side of the development.

They also questioned its marketability.

James R. Crouse asked whether people buying a $300,000 property would want to live so close to the noise and the vibration of the railroad and wetlands.

“We would hope there's a lot of follow-through with the (surveyor and) the drainage board,” he said.

Other projects that garnered opposition included Balmoral, proposed as having 66 single-family units in the 14100 block of Coldwater Road; and The Retreat, a five-lot development along the south side of the 3900 block of Crawford Road. Both are in Perry Township.

An amended plan to add six lots to Drake's Pointe near Carroll and Hand roads in Eel River Township also received opposition. The original plan was approved by the plan commission last month.

North Eastern received no opposition to a plan to amend the previously approved Village of Copper Creek in Perry Township from 121 duplex buildings to 116 single family homes and 20 duplexes in an adjacent area called The Enclave at Copper Creek.

The proposals will be voted on at the commission's business meeting at 1 p.m. Thursday in Room 30 of Citizens Square.

rsalter@jg.net