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The Journal Gazette

2 Union Chapel plazas opposed by neighbors

– Two proposed shopping centers have some residents bemoaning growth in the Parkview Regional Medical Center area.

More than 50 people attended the Allen County Plan Commission public hearing Thursday to protest the development of The Center at Union Chapel and Providence Place – both would spring from Union Chapel Road.

Opposition of The Center at Union Chapel was so strong that officials on the project asked to postpone their meeting until August.

It was the second time since April that they asked for more time.

A representative for The Center at Union Chapel said the developer wants to consult with Parkview Health and residents of the Hawthorne Park subdivision.

Besides a shopping center, the 42-acre, multimillion-dollar investment could include a four-story hotel, a fitness center or drive-thru restaurant.

“I don’t want to say something I’ll regret,” said a man who stormed out of the hearing but who declined to give his name.

“People had to get off from work, rearrange their schedules, find sitters for their kids, and then they postpone the hearing again.”

In addition to a primary plan approval, The Center at Union Chapel requires rezoning from agricultural and planned single-family residential to metropolitan shopping center, planned professional and personal services, and planned multiple-family.

For Providence Place staff, Wednesday’s hearing was their second appearance before the Plan Commission, after having postponed a public hearing last month as well.

The delay seemed to pay some dividends, as residents attending the meeting seemed most at odds with The Center at Union Chapel.

Even so, Providence – pegged to cost $40 million – had its detractors.

“They have gone the extra mile in trying to make it work,” said 63-year-old Peggy Delany, a resident of the Sorrento subdivision, which sits off Union Chapel Road. “But I know we’re going to have trouble.”

Crime, traffic, property values, noise, lighting and signage were among the concerns.

Plan Commission members were handed petitions signed by 600 residents who opposed the shopping centers.

Delany said her real estate agent said her home would lose $20,000 in value if both shopping centers are completed.

“I was encouraged to sell,” Delany said.

The developer of the project is Dr. Greg Sassmannshausen, a Fort Wayne orthopedic surgeon.

Longtime developer Jeff Thomas is an adviser to Sassmannshausen, who was in surgery Thursday and unable to attend the public hearing.

Thomas said the physician has made several concessions in hopes of appeasing neighbors, such as buffering, changes to architectural designs and changes to the shopping center that would span 76,000 square feet with five additional outlots.

“What’s not getting mentioned is all of the jobs that will be created by this,” Thomas said.

Providence Place would need a primary plan approval and rezoning from agricultural to neighborhood shopping center.

Attorney Pat Hess, who represented Sassmannshausen, urged the residents in attendance to accept change.

“It’s hard; … it’s never easy,” Hess said. “This is a quality development, … and it is compatible.”

The Allen County Plan Commission will decide on the project at 1:30 p.m. Thursday at Citizens Square.

pwyche@jg.net

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