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Way cleared for apartments

Council OKs west-side rezoning despite objections

– Fort Wayne City Council members approved a zoning change Tuesday to allow 76 senior apartments on seven acres despite concerns over the loss of trees and drainage problems in the area.

KAM Construction wants to build the apartments on Reckeweg Road, which runs north and south between Illinois Road and West Jefferson Boulevard, just west of Jefferson Pointe. The parcel, which had been zoned for single-family attached, needed to be changed to planned residential.

Currently, the land has a heavily wooded strip that runs along its southern edge, providing a natural buffer between the development and Springmill Woods, a neighborhood of two-story condos.

But plans call for those trees to be ripped out and replaced by a thinner, artificial buffer, a move that drew objection from John Shoaff, D-at large.

KAM’s attorney, Pat Hess, said that while unfortunate, the destruction of trees during development “just happens,” and it is required in this case because of the size and shape of the property.

Shoaff countered, to no avail, that leaving the trees in place could be a better buffer than what is planned, and the money saved by not tearing them out and replacing them might make up for the reduced number of units the wider buffer would allow.

Mitch Harper, R-4th, said the city has spent a lot of money in the Glendale neighborhood to the west, which still struggles with drainage problems.

But Michelle Wood, senior planner for the Department of Planning Services, said the law requires that development not worsen the drainage, and since there is currently nothing on the property to stop stormwater from draining west toward Glendale, the development may actually improve the situation.

The zoning change passed 6-3, with Shoaff, Harper and Geoff Paddock, D-5th, voting against it.

Police, fire appeals

Police and firefighters hurt in the line of duty will have a new way to appeal city decisions on whether they were hurt while on duty under a plan approved unanimously Tuesday.

Public Safety Director Rusty York said the new system creates a more transparent process that is supported by the three police and firefighter unions.

Jeremy Bush, president of Fort Wayne Professional Firefighters Local 124, said the change, which creates a five-person compensation committee, makes the process fairer.

“It’s a great thing for the department and a great thing for the city,” Bush said.

Tax break OKd

Council members also unanimously approved a tax phase-in for Fort Wayne Metals Research Products, which plans a $2 million expansion at its facility at 9609 Ardmore Ave. and the purchase of $15.7 million in equipment for various facilities across Fort Wayne.

The investments will help the company keep the 508 full-time jobs it already has and create 72 more that will pay, on average, more than $50,000 a year.

Officials estimate that phasing in the property taxes on the expansion and new equipment over 10 years will save the company about $1.2 million.