The Fort Wayne Plan Commission said no to one proposal and postponed a decision on a second during its meeting Monday night.
By a vote of 5-2 with one abstention, plan commissioners ruled that Famous Taco would not be allowed to change a previous formal agreement to permit a restaurant in the 6600 block of West Jefferson Boulevard.
And a developer proposing a party boat attraction at the corner of Spy Run and Parnell avenues was told to bring more information to a rescheduled public hearing on Jan. 9, after commissioners questioned the thoroughness of his plan.
The Famous Taco site has proved contentious for more than three years, as developer Martin Quintana, a Fort Wayne restaurateur, changed from one plan to another without seeking planners’ approval.
The most recent request was to amend a written commitment to allow a sit-down Mexican restaurant instead of a small sandwich shop without a drive-through or outdoor seating.
The commitment was a compromise with neighbors after the project changed without prior approval and received stop-work orders from the Allen County Building Department, including one for using an unlicensed contractor.
The commission’s site plan committee recommended denial of the amendment. Plan commission president Connie Haas Zuber said the proposal did not conform to the zoning ordinance’s first principle, “carefully planned growth.”
“This project has not been carefully planned from the get-go,” she said. The plan commission bent the rules for the developer’s changes in plans, she said, “and here we are again.”
The project began as a 9,000-square-foot addition described as a garage and added on to an existing single-family residence. The project then became a restaurant and then an 11,000 square-foot, four-unit structure described as a “retail plaza,” despite the site being zoned residential. The building then sprouted a Famous Taco sign weeks before its public hearing for the amendment change in October.
Plan commissioners have expressed frustration that Quintana – who has been involved with Las Lomas and Dos Margaritas and another Famous Taco restaurant on North Clinton Street – has a pattern of ignoring rules and asking for forgiveness later.
Approving the amendment would be a sign to other developers that following planning processes doesn’t really matter, said Judi Wire, responding to a question from fellow plan commission member Don Schmidt on how approving the amendment would negatively affect the community.
The proposal also would break faith with the neighbors who negotiated the amendment, said Rachel Tobin-Smith, who moved to turn down the amendment.
She, Haas Zuber, Wire, Patrick Zaharko and Rick Briley voted for denial; Schmidt, and Paul Sauerteig voted against it. Ryan Neumeister abstained. Tom Freistroffer was absent.
Applicant River City Ventures LLC, Fort Wayne, was told its application did not contain enough information when it was reviewed by the plan commission’s site plan committee. The company’s representative, Matt Kelty, a Fort Wayne architect, told the committee he had not been able to speak to his client.
The land’s owner and applicant are listed on the project’s application as Joseph Tippmann of Fort Wayne.
Plan commission members said the plan for the site along the St. Joseph River raised many questions: how a floodway and flood plain would be handled, site lighting and noise and safety. Those those boarding or disembarking from the party boat or other boats stored at an on-site boatyard would have to cross the River Greenway.
The site is now zoned single-family residential. Tippman has been involved in another river-oriented Fort Wayne business in which a pontoon boat outfitted as a floating bar became unhinged from it mooring in 2017 and crashed into the Tecumseh Street Bridge over the Maumee River.
The vote was 7-1, with Don Schmidt voting against the delay.
The business will have until Dec. 6 to meet the filing deadline for the requested information.