City Council couldn’t quite get its act together to make a decision that would have allowed a worthy and much-needed women’s shelter to begin construction. Amidst bickering and heated debate, the Council voted to delay its decision on whether or not to vacate Fairmount Place – a ghost of a street that leads to a deadend – so that Charis House could build a women’s shelter which takes in women and children in crisis.
While mouthing platitudes to the goals of Charis House, the Council bought into the the much maligned pretext of “river front development” as well as the argument that the structure “just wouldn’t fit” into the Wells Street Corridor of businesses. The Council caved to arguments by the Wells Street Merchants that the vacation of Fairmount Place would wreak all kinds of havoc in the area including stopping river front development, building a structure not compatible with the area, and deviating from the goals and objectives of Plan-It Allen and neighborhood plans.
The design of Charis House is considered “suburban” in nature, which apparently is anathema to the neighborhood despite the fact that Wells Street is a composite of eclectic building styles with no one prevalent design. The Wells Street business corridor – as it is known – is home to older buildings such as Klemm’s, Hyde Brothers, and the Pantry. But it also hosts more modern, suburban-looking buildings such as the building that houses an engineering firm, two strip malls, and a grocery store – buildings which are by no means urban in design.
To argue that the Charis House building would not fit is simply a smokescreen. The design is not fancy – it is functional. It is a two-story building about the size of the funeral home down the street to the north. The site will be about 30,600 square feet – approximately 175 feet by 175 feet. My home sits on a lot which is 100 feet long, so the size of the building is about twice the length of my lot.
It will sit back from the street and will be landscaped according to City standards. A parking lot will be situated in the front of the structure – another complaint from the Wells Street merchants despite the fact that other businesses have parking lots located in the front of their businesses. Again, another smokescreen.
But the most disingenuous attempt to persuade City Council to deny the vacation of Fairmount Place is the flawed argument that building Charis House will hurt river front development. What river front development and when? The St. Marys River, which is the primary river flowing through Fort Wayne and the river which has been touted as the one most amenable to development, tops its banks on a regular basis. Almost all land lying along the river is located in a flood plain.
State statutes preclude development in a flood plain and/or floodway, so my question is this – how will the river bank be developed when it still lies in a floodplain? In addition to location in the flood plain, most areas of the St. Marys River are hidden behind lengths of levees, berms, and flood walls – barriers which prevent views of the very river which so many want to develop. Again, another smokescreen. While river front development may be feasible in limited areas along the St. Marys River, it should not be undertaken in the area touted by the Wells Street merchants.
What a shame the City Council got caught up in a debate that boils down to a choice to help women and children or a choice to buy into disingenuous arguments that do not hold water, and, instead, fall back on arguments that appear on their surface to be legitimate yet underneath are lacking in foundation.