The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, August 12, 2021 1:00 am

Editorial

Mystery project

Details scant on proposed food production site

EDITORIAL BOARD | The Journal Gazette

The plans are intriguing. A 673,000-square-foot building slated for development south of the city, with a “campus-like atmosphere” on more than 50 acres of agricultural land near Fort Wayne International Airport.

The facility will produce 7,000 acres of food production annually – a feat to be accomplished using little water and without pesticides, herbicides or other chemical agents.

What is it, exactly? And who's behind the proposed development?

We don't know.

Nondisclosure agreements are keeping those details secret, and a spokesman for applicants Robert D. Lattarulo and Dennis Spitler would only identify Project Green – so far just a collection of documents submitted to the Allen County Plan Commission – as “a food production facility” to The Journal Gazette's Rosa Salter Rodriguez.

The situation likely sounds familiar because it's a similar process followed by developers of the former Project Mastodon, now a large Amazon distribution center on Flaugh Road near Sweetwater Sound. The online retail giant wasn't revealed to the public until after Fort Wayne City Council approved a 10-year tax break plan to the tune of $16 million in uncollected revenue.

Council members later rejected a second, $7.3 million abatement request – after Amazon was identified – amid concerns about whether the city's tax break policies were correctly applied to the project. Some criticized Amazon for seeking the second abatement after construction began.

The approval process for Project Green is just beginning, and so far there are no requests for public money. It will go through Allen County officials instead of the city for approval because of the project's location, and a public hearing on rezoning the land for industrial use is scheduled Sept. 16.

Lattarulo and Spitler are executives of a company called Ascending Greens Indiana Inc. A web search returns bare-bones documents filed with the state to establish the company, which is headquartered on Stellhorn Road.

Developers regularly seek privacy during early discussions with public agencies, something Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters said in an email is understandable when “we as a community are competing against the whole world for projects and need to honor a company's wishes to a point.”

That point, Peters said, is when discussions turn to dollars and cents and transparency is key because “we are dealing with taxpayer revenues.”

We expect that, as well as due diligence on a development that could benefit Allen County. Mystery projects, not surprisingly, don't engender public trust.

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