Council approves purchase of North River property

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) Tuesday night Fort Wayne City Council approved a controversial land purchase. The purchase of the North River property helps pave the way for riverfront development, but even the councilors who voted for it said it was a bad deal.

What separated the yes and no votes was weighing if the costs of the unknown were worth the potential future investment on the large piece of property.

“It’s not a good deal, but with the seller we had that’s probably the best deal they were going to give us,” Councilman John Crawford (R), who voted for the purchase, said.

Even most who voted yes, which included Councilmen Crawford, Ensley, Freistroffer, Didier and Paddock, said it was a hard decision.

“It’s frustrating because they’re gut tells them it’s a bad deal,” Councilman Glynn Hines (D), who voted against the purchase, said.

The purchase agreement passed out of committee with a five to four vote. However, because of a family engagement Councilman Barranda was not able to attend the final vote which ended up being five to three. That’s still good for the purchase to be approved.

Over weeks of discussion, City Council members brought up concerns about seller indemnity, not releasing results of the environmental studies on the land or what it may cost to clean up the land, and the timeline in which the purchase agreement was given to Council. The city has had the agreement since this summer, but only gave it to Council this month when it was set to expire on December 1 without approval.

Councilman Hines voted no because he couldn’t see how much it would cost taxpayers to clean up the land.

“If in fact it’s a half a million dollars for remediation that’s not a a bad number,” Hines said. “But what if it’s $5 million, what if it’s $10 million?”

For Councilman Crawford the risk is worth the potential outcome.

“If we remediate it, and get a nice development in the $100 million range we’ll recoup that in property taxes,” Crawford said.

The city will put the land up for bid early next year.