Councilman Didier confident ahead of vote on problem properties ordinance

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – Council is set to vote on a new ordinance with the hope of cleaning up problem areas around the city.

It’s called the Commercial Chronic Problem Properties ordinance and it takes aim at businesses that are locations of repeated illegal activity.

Council voted it out of committee last week 8-1 in favor of the measure. The final vote is planned for Tuesday.

If it passes, the measure will penalize businesses where police, fire crews, or neighborhood code enforcement get called to on a regular basis. After 12 citations from those agencies in a 90 day period, the business would have to pay a fine.

Councilman Tom Didier wrote the ordinance and says there are two main purposes. One goal is to clean up busy areas of town that represent the city. It’s a mission that Didier said he’s confident in.

“I’m very proud that I’m introducing this ordinance,” Didier said. “I wouldn’t put my name on something if I didn’t think that it was going to be good for the community as a whole. I just wouldn’t do it.”

Another focus of the plan is to save police resources.

Fort Wayne Police Chief Steve Reed said he hopes the ordinance will allow his officers to focus on other issues besides chronic problem properties.

“We continue to see a lot of those same businesses have a lot of calls this year, so hopefully once we begin working with them once this ordinance has passed, we’ll see a reduction in those types of calls,” Reed said. “That will free up officers on the street to take care of other duties to be more proactive when they’re out there.”

The ordinance has also gained support from Mayor Tom Henry.

“I’m really proud of the fact that city council has chosen this as an issue.” Henry said. “Councilman Didier should be complimented because of his action and bringing it back. Obviously the administration supports him and I will sign the bill if presented to me.”

But the Commercial Chronic Problem Properties ordinance doesn’t have unanimous support. Some business owners said it could create issues for them and their customers.

“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?’”

Councilman Jason Arp has also taken issue with the measure. He was the only councilman to vote against it in committee, calling it unconstitutional and unnecessary.

“For people who think some of these properties are a common nuisance in which they are knowingly allowing illegal things to happen, if that’s the case then there’s a state statute called ‘maintaining a common nuisance,'” Arp explained. “It’s already a felony. All we have to do is prosecute that in the cases where we think we have pretty good evidence rather than taking this route that doesn’t allow people to have their say in court.”

Councilman Didier said he has listened to Arp’s concerns, but said the ordinance ultimately has the city’s best interests in mind. He also said he’s confident it has enough support to pass with a large margin in the final vote.