Fort Wayne City Council voted 5-3 in favor of allowing construction of a three-building shopping center on West Jefferson Boulevard. The proposal needed City Council’s approval to rezone the six-and-a-half acres of residential land.
Council chambers were filled to capacity as members deliberated on the measure for two-and-a-half hours before what most members described as a very difficult vote.
Mary Ann Hunter owns the property, which will be anchored by Peter Kay Jewelers in the planned shopping center. Melissa Long, retired Fort Wayne news anchor and Hunter’s daughter, says this is a property rights issue, and that concerned neighbors had time to buy it themselves.
“A buyer has come forth and neighbors say they’re destroying their green space. It is not their green space,” said Long. “They say this development will destroy their way of life. Where was their offer to purchase the land if it is so destructive?”
Opponents asking for a “no” vote wanted to see a study committee survey the property for several months before council reached a final verdict.
J.R. Tomkinson lives and owns a business near the property. He says voting in favor of the measure despite concerns sends a bad message to voters and potential businesses, and that council should have entertained delaying the vote for a study to be completed.
“Please remember that you can vote ‘no’ to this and vote ‘yes’ to it in the future, but you can’t do that the other way around,” Tomkinson noted.
Fort Wayne’s Plan Commission voted unanimously against the proposal in April after hearing objections and concerns from neighbors of the property. City Council’s vote in favor of the measure overturns that recommendation.