Proposed housing developments in Saint Joe Township opposed by area residents

Schwartz Rd. where more than 200 single-family homes and rental duplexes could be built

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – The construction of two housing developments in St. Joseph Township has caused stress for a lot of nearby property owners. A petition to stop the developments has gathered more than 500 signatures.

The new developments would go next to the Woodfield residential developments off Schwartz Road. The Lakes of Woodfield would have 89 single-family homes and The Village of Woodfield would have 65 rental duplex (130 units).

“We’ve experienced tremendous growth in this area, St. Joe Township in particular and there continues to be a high demand here,” explained Ric Zehr, director of development strategies for NWM Corp. and its affiliate, North Eastern Group. “So, there’s a high demand for quality housing which is what we are planning here.”

Many people in the agricultural area don’t support NWM’s residential plans. Residents there fear NWM will build section 8 housing, which could increase crime in the area. Their belief is that NWM is “known for” building section 8 housing. Zehr emphasized they are not building apartments and that the cost of the proposed properties are way too high for that concern. The houses cost upwards of $325,000 and the monthly rent for the duplex units is $1,000 to $1,200. Nearby residents say just because Zehr claims this now doesn’t mean he can’t cut prices down later.

Harold Pierson Jr. and Janese Latimer-Pierson say the area is meant for country living. The homes have big lots that are multiple acres. The Amish community rides their horse and buggies peacefully. Kids are safe from overly intense traffic.

“We all moved out here for a certain purpose and based on what’s being proposed to be built here, it’s just not cohesive to this area,” Pierson said.

The Pierson’s say if the area’s farm land must be developed, it needs to be done right.

“Do what’s cohesive to the environment, the culture here,” Latimer-Pierson explained. “Do what’s going to be good for safety and making sure that the traffic issues are addressed and making sure that the kids are safe who run up and down the street. That’s what we’re asking.”

Pierson agreed.

“It just does not match,” he said. “It’s not about what’s in our backyard. We’re totally open to development, but it’s just what we’re developing. How we’re developing it.”

Zehr believes the area residents should consider the greater Fort Wayne community.

“Whenever we develop a project, it’s always an open field and most of the time it’s adjacent to housing that exists next to it,” he said. “People don’t like change. They want to continue to be able to look at that field. However when we purchase it, it’s under our control and in this case, this is the best and highest use for this ground.”

This debate will continue at a public zoning board on March 15 at 1 p.m. at Citizen Square.