The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 22, 2022 1:00 am

Political notebook

Written commitments on rezoning weighed

DEVAN FILCHAK | The Journal Gazette

The Fort Wayne City Council spent all but 10 minutes of its hourlong meeting on a presentation and discussion about written commitments on rezonings.

Multiple rezonings have drawn crowds of opponents of commercial development in areas that were once residential.

Rezonings at 1114 E. Goldspur Drive, which was once part of the Centaur Acres subdivision, and 8010 Illinois Road were both accompanied by written commitments to limit the commercial uses the rezonings would allow, but some have questioned the weight a written commitment holds.

Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th, said Department of Planning Services officials discussed the issue in March with some council members and residents of his district and the southwest District 4.

Councilman Glynn Hines, D-at large, said Tuesday's presentation by Patrick Rew, senior planner, and Bob Eherenman, attorney for the plan commission, was not actually for the council members. “I think it was very helpful to have it as part of this forum because it's not so much for us but for the public to hear the process,” he said.

Indiana is somewhat unique because it allows written commitments and several states do not, Eherenman said.

“It gives staff, it gives yourselves, it gives the plan commission an ability to be very flexible and to come up with creative solutions,” he said.

Written commitments can be used to restrict uses allowed by a rezoning, but they can't allow anything that is not permitted by zoning rules. Developers often work with staff or neighbors when determining what a written commitment should include.

Councilwoman Sharon Tucker, D-6th, questioned how much the written commitments mean if someone has to complain before any enforcement is possible. Rew said the department doesn't have enough staff to include inspectors, but staff follow up on every complaint.

The department has been successful in working with people on correcting violations. Eherenman said he has a perfect record with winning court cases over zoning violations, most of which have been outside of city limits.

The presentation and discussion can be seen online at The Department of Planning Services can be reached by calling 449-7607.

Is he running?

Former Fort Wayne City Councilman Tim Pape announced last week he will not run for mayor next year.

With one prominent Democrat not running, does that mean Democrat Tom Henry will seek a fifth term as mayor? Henry hasn't officially announced, and his campaign couldn't be reached for comment.

“The mayor's office is one of enormous consequence for our future,” Pape said in a statement. “To seize the historic moment, we need a mayor with great vision, whom is comfortable sharing power, whom collaborates as (she or he) breathes, whom brings much to the work of increasing and spreading opportunity.”

The mayor and all nine City Council seats are up for election in 2023.

Councilman Tom Didier announced last year he is seeking the Republican mayoral nomination. Didier represents the 3rd District on the north side, the same district Henry represented when he was on the council from 1984 through 2003. Henry lost that seat when he was defeated by Didier in 2003. Henry was elected mayor four years later.

Did you say jail?

Allen County Councilwoman Sheila Curry-Campbell made sure Thursday to pay extra attention any time a specific word was mentioned: jail.

And it didn't take long. Auditor Nick Jordan mentioned “the issues at the jail” as he went over the monthly financial report. Curry-Campbell asked Jordan to repeat what he said about the jail.

“Our community is kind of in a disarray right now, so I want to make sure any time we say the word 'jail,' our constituents really have a clear understanding,” said Curry-Campbell, a Democrat.

Jordan told council members that they will notice a decrease in a line of revenue moving forward. The county received about $3 million last year for housing state and federal inmates, but the commissioners recently canceled the contract to house federal inmates in response to overcrowding at the Allen County Jail.

The county received about $50 per inmate per day. Jordan expects that line to drop by about $1 million this year as the county will likely still receive about $2 million for housing state inmates, including local offenders charged with low-level felonies. 

“Any time we say the word 'jail,'” Curry-Campbell said, “we just have to reiterate it.”

Democrats ready

The Nov. 8 election is six months away, but local Democrats want to get the ball rolling.

A group of elected officials and primary election winners will be at Allen County Democratic Headquarters on June 1 to celebrate their victories and discuss the journey to November's election.

The event begins at 5:30 p.m. at Democratic Headquarters, 7301 Decatur Road.

Wayne Township Trustee Austin Knox, who defeated Porsche Williams in the May 3 Democratic primary, is expected to attend. So is Kyle Miller, who defeated two challengers to win the Democratic nomination for Indiana's newly drawn 82nd House District seat. Miller will face Republican Davyd Jones in November. 

Jim Chapman of The Journal Gazette contributed to this column.

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