After two votes by a divided Fort Wayne Plan Commission, a change in zoning law that requires gas stations be located in general commercial zones set up specifically for that use will go to City Council.
The change will not allow gas stations to be approved as special uses – a practice that has resulted in recent neighborhood opposition, especially on the southeast side of Fort Wayne.
Residents there have complained there are too many stations, they are magnets for unsavory activities and they use predatory pricing.
Gas station owners and developers and at least one trade association opposed the measure at previous meetings and in correspondence with planners, saying the changes unfairly targeted a legal business.
An initial motion Monday night by commission member Tom Freistroffer failed by a 4-3 vote. The Republican at-large City Council representative wanted to forward the change and its amendments to the council without a recommendation.
A second motion to send the measure to the council with a recommendation to pass it received a 4-2 vote, with Freistroffer abstaining. Because five votes are needed to pass, the commission's chairwoman, Connie Haas Zuber, was required to vote and provided the fifth vote in favor.
The commission's site committee recommended the plan commission support the measure to the council.
After the vote, City Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th District, who has championed limiting the location of gas stations, said he was pleased.
“I think it's a good recommendation,” he said. “It's still going to be a battle at the council table. We'll need five votes.”
Hines said the measure could come up by March. If passed by the council, the change would go into effect April 1.
The plan commission's vote had been delayed from its January meeting.
Special uses require only approval by the board of zoning appeals. Now, if a gas station is proposed for an area not zoned for that use, a rezoning must be sought, and all rezonings require council approval.
Zuber said prior to the vote she was inclined to support the site committee's recommendation because the issue is not confined to the south side.
“We hear similar concerns from neighbors of every gas station proposal that comes before us at the (Board of Zoning Appeals). It's not one section of town or another,” she said.