About 30 residents of the Brierwood Hills and Covington Creek neighborhoods Monday night demonstrated their opposition to a nearby development that started out as a residential garage but morphed into a restaurant and retail center.
The residents, who attended what was to have been the Fort Wayne Plan Commission's public hearing on Quintana Plaza at 6626 W. Jefferson Blvd., but didn't get to publicly voice their concerns.
Plan commissioners unanimously voted to give the developer, restaurant owner Martin Quintana of Fort Wayne, more time to straighten out the issues that have made the project problematic. Besides zoning issues, the project is now under an Allen County Building Department stop-work order.
But residents had a lot to say after the vote to table the project until the commission's Aug. 12 public hearing – with most describing the project as ill-designed from the get-go.
If it's allowed to go forward as is, residents said, the two neighborhoods will suffer.
“I just wish he (the developer) would have been upfront so we could have seen what he was interested in doing and could have had some input,” Pam McDaniel, president of the Brierwood Hills Neighborhood Association, told The Journal Gazette.
“The way he tried to skirt around the law – an 8,000-square-foot garage, who builds that? – they should (have him) tear it down as punishment,” said Marvin Steyer, a Brierwood resident.
James Federoff, a Fort Wayne attorney representing Quintana, told the plan commission he was requesting more time to speak with an attorney for Covington Creek, a condominium development, “to be able to have a plan to be acceptable to the neighbors.”
He asked that the hearing be delayed until the plan commission's July 8 public hearing. But because revised construction plans would need to be submitted to the Department of Planning Services for their review and publication prior to the hearing, the commission settled on an extra month.
Federoff's mention of a meeting with the condos' lawyer upset some Brierwood residents, who said they hadn't gotten the same consideration.
Some pointed out that the new building apparently was not being built to commercial standards. And, they said that, instead of being added onto the existing residence, the new building was actually built around the home so it was no longer visible.
Some residents, they said, brought up the building as strange during a neighborhood association meeting as early as May.
Becky Cox, representing Covington Creek residents, said the northwest end of the building “is just feet away” from the condo buildings.
The project is seeking a waiver of commercial building development standards for being too close to a property line.
Covington Creek residents are going to have to endure light, noise, increased traffic, water problems “and smells” from restaurant garbage, Cox said.
“I don't think Covington Creek (residents) should be penalized for him wanting to do business ... He's a businessman. He should have known the rules,” she said.
The building came to the notice of building department officials in February when they received an unsigned complaint saying the structure appeared odd for its stated use. The complaint cited its large size and the fact it had only one garage bay, despite being presented to officials as a garage with “residential use only.”
Before the complaint, building officials had to take the developer at his word for the nature of building, John Caywood, Allen County Building Department commissioner, said in an interview last week. The project received two stop-work orders, one of which still stands.
Because commercial buildings must be built to different standards from residential ones to protect public safety, the developer could face fines from the county or the state or a tear-down order, Caywood said.
Quintana seeks to have the property rezoned to general commercial and approval of a primary development plan. Any rezoning would also have to be approved by Fort Wayne City Council.
The building, as it stands, has exposed exterior insulation despite being under roof. The inside is unfinished, with exposed concrete and beams.