City addresses council's concerns on North River property

Community Development director Greg Leatherman said he can't release many details of the agreement because of a non-disclosure agreement.

Posted: Nov 15, 2017 10:57 PM

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WFFT) - Members of Fort Wayne's city council are still uneasy about the purchase agreement to buy the North River property.

The city wants to buy the old Omni Source property across from Science Central heading into downtown.

Timeline for North River Property

  • July 27; Purchase agreement signed between the City of Fort Wayne and Calhoun Investments, LLC 
  • Nov. 13; Fort Wayne Redevelopment Commission to consider becoming the title holder of the North River property
  • Nov. 14; Introduction of ordinance to City Council for the City of Fort Wayne to assume responsibility for any future environmental remediation, if required, at the North River property
  • Nov. 16; Allen County-Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board (CIB) to consider a $4.63 million funding commitment to the City of Fort Wayne Redevelopment Authority to purchase the North River property. The CIB funding would be interest-free and repaid as future development warrants. No deadline would be required for repayment.
  • Nov. 21; City Council discussion and possible preliminary vote on the ordinance 
  • Nov. 28: City Council possible final passage of the ordinance 
  • Dec. 1; Closing between the City of Fort Wayne and Calhoun Investments, LLC 

Part of the agreement would let the current owners, Calhoun Investments, off the hook for any environmental clean up. It's unclear how much that could cost.

Community Development director Greg Leatherman said he can't release many details of the agreement because of a non-disclosure agreement.

"I've got to look every voter in the eye and be able to answer their question 'Did you read the environmental report before you put us on the hook for paying that?' My answer is always going to be no if the city has their way," said councilman Michael Barranda.

Barranda is one of at least four council members who don't support the agreement to buy the 29 acre property that was once a scrap yard.

Part of the agreement is the city would assume all responsibility for environmental remediation.

"We had hoped we could provide them with enough assurance we knew about the site. It's clear we need to come up with some additional information about capping those exaggerated amounts and bring in more realistic numbers to the process," said Leatherman.

Leatherman said the environmental study done 10 years ago show the soil on the top 12 inches is the only contaminated soil here on the North River property.

However city councilman Russ Jehl still wants a price tag on the clean up.

"That's relieving news, then lets quantify how small that small investment is going to be, get that in the public so the public is comfortable with it and just put some pricing behind it," said Jehl.

Leatherman said the city can't put a number on how much it would cost because there's more than just environmental clean up involved.

"It's also site prep that any site has to do in order to be ready. You have to prepare ground, the ground has to be sturdy enough to hold the building up. There's a lot of things going into it," he said.

He added he is working on some examples on how much it would cost to show council members when the agreement is discussed during next week's city council meeting.

There is already interest in the land, including non-profit Headwaters Junction for a museum and the Lutheran Health Network for a new downtown hospital.

However, insiders tell WFFT LHN isn't as interested in the property as they were earlier this year.

Leatherman said having control of this property is needed for the future.

"It's a key piece of property for the image of downtown Fort Wayne, what you see as you go into downtown Fort Wayne," said Leatherman.

The city is asking the Allen County - Fort Wayne Capital Improvement Board for $4.6 million to buy the property.

It will be discussed Thursday morning during the CIB meeting. It starts at 8 a.m. inside the Grand Wayne Center.

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