At a Fort Wayne Plan Commission meeting this week, several West Central residents raised questions about how the proposed Lutheran Downtown hospital may affect their neighborhood.
Some residents are worried the new hospital will mean their homes will be exposed to more noise from the arrival and departure of helicopters, ambulances and delivery trucks. Others expressed concern about the possibility of more workers parking on their streets or walking the residential area to smoke during breaks.
The plan commission no doubt will discuss the points those neighbors made before its vote on the development proposal Monday, but the potential problems are not likely to derail Lutheran Health Network's long-discussed replacement for St. Joseph Hospital.
The new facility is to be sited on Van Buren Street, just a block west of where the current facility is located. If approved by the commission, Lutheran Health Network's proposal doesn't even have to go through City Council: the site, now a parking lot for St. Joe, is already properly zoned.
But the best time for neighbors to raise questions about any major building project is before ground is broken. Perhaps there are yet-unthought-of ways to mitigate or block the clamor, to develop alternative smoking areas or to encourage employees to use the large new parking lot that will be created on St. Joe's site after the current hospital is razed. If the Three Rivers Ambulance Authority, which traditionally has stationed vehicles in St. Joe's emergency area, hasn't been brought into the discussion, it should be.
The good news is that Lutheran finally seems ready to act on its plans for Lutheran Downtown, which were announced in 2017. It's difficult to overstate the importance of continuing to have a hospital in the central city. St. Joe, which has been a part of Fort Wayne since 1869, has been showing its age, and the advantages of building a state-of-the-art facility rather than trying to refurbish the old hospital are obvious.
But none of that negates the right of nearby residents to be heard and have their objections taken seriously. We hope Lutheran will continue to listen to and work with its West Central neighbors long after construction begins.