The plan for an IU Health hospital campus in Lafayette Township was approved Thursday by the Allen County Plan Commission with a 7-0-1 vote.
The commission voted to rezone several variously zoned tracts containing 137 acres at Ernst and Lower Huntington roads in southwest Allen County to shopping center designation, a category that allows for many uses including a hospital campus, and approved a primary development plan.
However, the vote came only after the developer committed to allowing only a hospital and an associated medical support services building to rise to 150 and 75 feet, respectively, as proposed.
If other uses were proposed for buildings under the shopping center zoning – for example, a hotel – the buildings would be limited to the 40 feet – typically two or three stories – the zoning ordinance allows. The height requests had been a sticking point for neighbors who opposed the rezoning during a public hearing.
Republican Allen County Commissioner Nelson Peters, also a plan commission member, abstained on the rezoning. He voted with other commissioners on the primary development plan, which passed 8-0.
Opponents told The Journal Gazette they planned to remain in contact with the commissioners, who have the final approval in any land-use plan requiring rezoning.
The new written commitment also excludes 63 uses allowed under the shopping center classification.
Andrew Boxberger, the Fort Wayne attorney for applicant Ernst Associates LLC, said the decision was in keeping with the county's comprehensive plan from 2006.
A shopping center was included in previously approved development plans that didn't become reality, “so we're not changing the use, just expanding it,” Boxberger said after the meeting.
The county commissioners have 90 days to approve the rezoning. The commissioners also have the option of not acting on it, in which case the plan commission's decision stands.
Peters said to his knowledge, he and his fellow commissioners have never bypassed voting on a rezoning.
About 63 acres of the property are already zoned shopping center. The rest of its parcels are zoned agriculture, single-family residential, multiple family residential and professional office and personal services