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The Journal Gazette

Tuesday, July 12, 2016 7:00 am

Rezoning sought for center for autism

Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne Plan Commission on Monday heard rezoning proposals for a program aimed at teens and young adults with autism and other developmental delays, a new service station along West Cook Road, and a furniture maker. 

All proposals will be voted on at a 5 p.m. meeting Monday in Citizens Square, 200 E. Berry St., and rezonings must then gain approval from county commissioners.

Maple Seed Farms, a Fort Wayne nonprofit organization, sought a rezoning from Agricultural/Residential to Single-Family Residential to seek a special use for the property at 101 W. Dupont Road, the former site of Willowbrook Day School.

Maple Seed plans to offer a nonresidential program for 10 to 15 teens and young adults with autism and other special needs related to developmental delays. Plans are for an opening this fall.

Attorney Rob Kruger, representing the applicant, said the rezoning was sought because schools are permitted in any zoning classification but personal services such as therapy programs are not.

He responded to neighbors’ questions about traffic backups when school sessions started or ended as unlikely from the new program because it has fewer clients than the former day school and they would come and go at staggered times.  

Developer Bellechase Investments LLC of Fort Wayne sought a down-zoning from Industrial 2 (General Industrial) to Commercial 3 (General Commercial) and primary plan approval for the Cook Service Center, described as a mixed-use retail center.

Plans submitted show a gas station/convenience store and two additional buildings to the south and east unlabeled as to use. The site is approximately 5 acres at 3731 West Cook Road, on the south side of Cook and the east side of Huguenard Road.

Two neighbors objected to the proposal, saying the property is close to residential areas and the plan would cause additional light, air and noise pollution. Neighbor John Elward said two other gas stations stand nearby and three more within two miles.

"There’s not a reason to have another service station in our vicinity," he said, adding the proposal "is going to decrease the value of my property."

Architect Philip Troyer, representing the applicant, said nearby residential growth has made the site attractive, although no traffic studies have been performed. He said after the meeting the construction of the two auxiliary buildings, labeled as containing 10,500 and 8,000 square feet, is not imminent.

Plan commissioners also heard a proposal for rezoning a 0.7-acre tract at 7702 Bluffton Road to allow a building to be used for furniture manufacturing.

Kenefic Properties LLC of Fort Wayne asked for the change from Commercial 4 (Intensive Commercial) to Industrial 1 (Limited Industrial). Department of Planning Services staff members have recommended approval because some of the more intensive commercial uses of the property would be removed by the new designation and the request did not involve any new buildings or outdoor storage of materials or products.

The business, KDA Furniture and Interiors, is a custom manufacturer of office and religious furniture and is now located in Huntertown.

The commission also heard a master sign plan for the downtown campus of the University of Saint Francis.

rsalter@jg.net