Posted on Wed. Jan. 07, 2015 - 12:01 am EDT
Expansion of popular downtown dining deck supported, but environmental doubts raised
Coal tar from real 'Gas House' remains a problem, trustee says
In a letter to the Fort Wayne Plan Commission, which will consider the plan to expand the deck at Hall's Gas House on Jan. 12, Wayne Township Trustee Rick Stevenson said he "strongly suggests the expansion be denied" due to a recent study indicating underground contamination from the old coal gas plant that gave the restaurant its name still lingers in the area, and may be migrating toward the area eyed for the expansion.
The trustee's offices are across the street from the restaurant at 305 E. Superior St., and underground coal tar has been removed from both sites in recent years. The Gas House, in fact, closed for three months in 2008 for remediation. The project was done by the Northern Indiana Public Service Co., which bought the property in 1916 before selling it to the local restaurant chain in the mid-1950s. Stevenson said he is concerned about allowing expansion onto possibly contaminated land that should be cleaned up first if necessary.
Gas House Manager Ben Hall discounted any such concerns in the wake of the previous clean-ups, and company spokesman Scott Hall told council the deck "has been a good thing for Fort Wayne, and we want to make it even better."
City Council's approval is needed because the expanded deck would occupy a 40-foot city-owned approach to the former Spy Run Avenue Bridge, which no longer exists. Council could vote to vacate the property later this month.
According to paperwork filed with the Plan Commission, the 3,300-square-foot addition to the east of the existing decade-old, 2,377-square-foot deck would include restrooms, a kitchen, bar, and more seating. Plan Commission staff members have recommended the project's approval.
In other business, John Crawford, R-at large, was elected council president for 2015, succeeding Marty Bender, R-at large. Bender, who will leave council at the end of the year, will serve as vice president.