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Council delays vote on zoning changes affecting gas stations

March 13, 2019

In a unanimous vote tonight, the Fort Wayne City Council put on hold proposed changes to the city’s zoning ordinance as gas station developers and councilmen work out a possible compromise.

The original proposal, championed by Councilman Glynn Hines, D-6th, would amend the city’s zoning ordinance to only permit new gas stations in areas of the city already zoned for commercial use.

The change would remove gas stations from the list of approved special uses in several zoning districts, including neighborhood center, downtown edge, limited commercial, limited industrial and general industrial, moving the approval process from the Board of Zoning Appeals to the City Council. The proposal was approved by the Fort Wayne Plan Commission last month. 

Currently, a new gas station looking to locate in an area where a gas station is not a permitted use can go to the Board of Zoning Appeals for special use approval, Hines said. Under his proposed changes, gas station developers would have to petition the city Plan Commission to have the land rezoned. The City Council has final approval over all rezoning petitions approved by the Plan Commission. 

“Just because we can’t solve the whole problem doesn’t mean we shouldn’t solve any problems,” Hines said. “There are a couple things we can do and that is limit the number of gas stations that continue to come into our neighborhood.”

In addition to Hines, the council heard from neighborhood and community leaders who support changing the zoning ordinance. 

“We really don’t have room for additional gas stations,” Allen County Councilwoman Sharon Tucker said Tuesday. Tucker, who is running to represent City Council District 6, said it’s only a matter of time before the saturation of gas stations spreads from the 6th District on the southeast side to other areas of the city. 

James Federoff, an attorney representing several gas station developers, made the case Tuesday for why the zoning ordinance should remain the same.

Specifically, Federoff said the Board of Zoning Appeals’ special use procedure takes less time and is less expensive than what is needed for a rezoning petition. Additionally, Federoff said members of the Board of Zoning Appeals are more experienced in dealing with matters related to land use.

“Just because a project doesn’t come to council doesn’t mean it will not be fairly analyzed and fairly treated and given a proper review,” Federoff said. 

The proposal is set to return to the City Council table on March 26. 

dgong@jg.net