River City Ventures’ plans for a property near Spy Run Extended and Parnell Avenue are one step closer to happening after Fort Wayne City Council members approved a rezoning request Tuesday.

The contentious plan was before City Council members Tuesday for final approval on the rezoning of about 1.5 acres from residential to limited commercial at 3501 Parnell Ave., along the St. Joseph River. The members ultimately approved – after about two hours of discussion – the request 7-2 with opposition from Councilmen Russ Jehl, R-2nd, and Geoff Paddock, D-5th.

River City Ventures owner Joey Tippmann plans to build a 4,400-square-foot restaurant on the 3 acres of land that was already zoned for commercial use. The 1.5-acre land council members rezoned Tuesday will be used for about 80 parking spots at the pontoon boat business.

Tom Trent, attorney for River City Ventures, said plans would still move forward even if it didn’t get the City Council’s approval. The company would move the building and reposition the parking lot, which would lead to the significant loss of trees, Trent said.

During the discussion, council members heard from a few officials and only one resident, Dan Wire, who represented the Northside Neighborhood Association and is an advocate of the rivers.

Wire told council members that the concerns residents have about the planned development vary. Some are against the noise they expect will come from those party boats into the residential neighborhood across the river.

Trail users have worries about how the project will affect traffic on the Rivergreenway, which goes between the 4.5-acre property and the St. Joseph River. Some people’s interests are about the environmental impact, including flooding, on land that has served as floodplain.

“There’s a reason nothing has been there for 40 years,” Wire said.

Others are concerned about the Fort Wayne Department of Parks and Recreation giving access to public land for a business. Wire said the next step for opponents is to share their opinions with the parks department board, which owns the land the Rivergreenway Trail is on and where the River City dock would connect to the river.

It’s problematic, Wire said, because under state law, private property cannot be built on public land, and anything built there becomes public property.

“How do we let a private business build on public land?” Wire asked.

River City Ventures won’t be the last business to make a request to build on public land, Wire predicted.

To address Rivergreenway concerns, River City Ventures has offered to donate land that goes north of the planned development and pay for an alternative trail, Trent said. Dawn Ritchie, city greenways manager, said that the original trail will still be accessible.

Fort Wayne Police Capt. Scott Berning said that with the department’s new river patrol, laws will be enforced, including no loud noise after 10 p.m. and no operating boats if underage or while intoxicated.

Paddock estimated more than 100 people packed the meeting room for the rezoning issue, and at least 25 people watched it in an overflow room. Many of the council members said they’ve received a high number of emails and calls against the rezoning and the project.

Jehl said his vote reflected the opinion of residents in his district and of the Northside Neighborhood Association. He called the project not bad but bad for the neighborhood.

“When you set up zoning, you try to separate residential and commercial,” Jehl said before voting in opposition.

Paddock said hearing from experts made him more comfortable with the project but not comfortable enough to vote for it.

He added that he had concerns about the how it would affect the Rivergreenway Trail, riverfront accessibility issues and the footprint it will create.

Before voting in favor of the rezoning, Councilman Tom Didier, R-3rd, said he had concerns about noise and reported uncivil behavior, but he’s glad the river police will be on patrol.

Councilwoman Michelle Chambers, D-at large, said her support for the project was because the rivers should be shared.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, asked Tippmann to take the residents’ concerns into consideration.

Tippmann was present but didn’t address council. After the vote, he declined to comment.