The Journal Gazette
Tuesday, June 04, 2019 1:00 am

Garage now plaza, raising eyebrows

City planners to have public hearing


A Fort Wayne resident who claimed – in writing – to be building a large garage attached to a home along West Jefferson Boulevard has run afoul of local planning and building department rules.

Martin Quintana of Fort Wayne now says the buildings will have restaurant and possibly retail uses. A public hearing on the project, presented as Quintana Plaza, at 6626 W. Jefferson Blvd., is scheduled for Monday before the Fort Wayne Plan Commission.

Quintana is seeking to rezone the property from single-family residential to general commercial. He is also seeking a waiver from development standards because the building is too close to a property line for a commercial development.

The hearing stems from a situation that started in late February, when an unsigned complaint was received by the Allen County Building Department.

The person thought the building looked odd because it was so large and had no windows and only a single garage bay.

Records show the building labeled as a garage was to occupy 8,820 square feet – bigger by half than a basketball court – and had been proposed with two bathrooms and a laundry. A permit was also received for a high roof added to the design of the original home. 

After the complaint, a building inspector issued a stop-work order, and the contractor, E.E. Brandenberger of Spencerville, paid a $500 fine in March for going beyond the scope of the original permits.

In April, a second stop-work order was issued because of a subcontractor who could not produce a valid license was welding at the property. That order remains in effect because of the unresolved question of the building's use.

John Caywood, building commissioner, said department staff did not have reason to believe the building was going to be in commercial use based on the builder's representations.

Commercial zoning wasn't requested until May, planning department records show.

Caywood said proposing a structure as residential “is one way for someone to get around the (higher) cost of commercial construction. It may happen in other counties, but we don't want it to happen here.”

Some business owners try the ploy because commercial buildings face higher construction standards to protect the public, such as additional exits and different foundation requirements, Caywood said. They also carry somewhat higher permit fees, but that is usually not a consideration, he said.

This situation could still face action for possible violations from Indiana Department of Homeland Security officials, Caywood said.  

Quintana is associated with Mexican restaurants in Fort Wayne, including Las Lomas on Fairfield Avenue and Dos Margaritas on North Clinton Street. He is represented by Fort Wayne attorney James Federoff, who could not be reached Monday afternoon for comment.

The site is surrounded by other commercial uses, including limited commercial and neighborhood center.

It is south of Covington Creek Condominiums in the Aboite Township section of Fort Wayne.

According to a report by planning department staff, the latest word is that Quintana would like to use the nearly 2,900-square-foot house as the restaurant and the addition for multitenant retail. 

Because the case has not “followed th(e) typical process ... it is difficult for staff to review the project and make a recommendation,” the report states.

The report also expresses planning department concerns about potential restaurant uses, such as noise and late hours, that might effect nearby homes.

“There has been no indication of what the intended uses are for the retail portion,” and no written commitment had been received by Monday limiting uses, the report notes.

The hearing will be at 5:30 p.m. Monday in Room 35 of Citizens Square.

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