Business owners react to problem property ordinance

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Business owners around the Summit City reacted Thursday to the proposal of a ordinance fighting problem properties.

Fort Wayne City Council President Tom Didier laid out the plan Wednesday while standing along side with Fort Wayne’s police chief and Mayor Tom Henry, among others.

If the ordinance passes, businesses who are cited 12 times in 90 days by police, fire or neighborhood code, will be fined.

Didier and Police Chief Steve Reed both stressed the ordinance is not about money, but solving problems.

“This ordinance is not designed to hurt any commercial interests,” Didier said during the announcement. “It’s designed to help them fix problems and become a productive member of our commercial core.”

The plan is modeled after a similar ordinance established in South Bend. City leaders there boast a 95% success rate.

“There’s a lot of things the business owners can do themselves to alleviate a lot of these problems,” Didier explained.

He referenced to a handful of troubled motels, which operate in his district near Goshen Road and West Coliseum Boulevard.

“I understand where Mr. Tom is coming from, that if the property owners keep calling the cops all the time, then yes they should be penalized. But then, my question is you can not stop a customer from checking in, because that’s discrimination,” said Goldie Mathews, who represents several motel owners. “We can not ask the customer ‘what are you going to do in your room?'”

Mathews was not sure if city officials reached out to the motel owners, but suggested a discussion to help solve problems.

“I bet you the owners will come up with some ideas and solutions. They are ready to work with the police, the city council, the mayors. They can sit a table, a roundtable, and suggest to the owners ‘what can we do to help you?’ and the owners can say ‘what do we need to help you guys?’ It’s teamwork.”

Didier also referenced sexually oriented businesses. A proposal forcing those businesses to close at midnight has been tabled.

“I’m all for it,” owner of Shangri-La West, Dino Zurzolo said.  “I think they need to tweak it a little bit, as far as how they do it, but overall it should be in place. Absolutely.”

Zurzolo also said the ordinance may change how his business operates. He said rather than call police to remove someone, the staff may consider handling the situation themselves.

“Every business should police themselves to a certain extent,” he said.