What: Fort Wayne Board of Zoning Appeals public hearing
When: 6 p.m. Aug. 16
Where: Citizens Square Room 35, 200 E. Berry St.
Seven months ago, Richard Kriz II acknowledged he might be perceived as vindictive.
Instead, it appears he's about to be vindicated.
Kriz, you may recall, is the 62-year-old engineer who rejected Indiana Tech's $25,000 offer for his small lot at 1305 E. Washington Blvd. after concluding the school had paid more for similar dormitory sites. But this month, unless something goes terribly wrong, he'll win city planners' approval to build his own “mini dorm” despite a real estate “expert's” warning that his refusal to sell had rendered the property virtually useless.
Not everyone has the luxury of being able to turn down $25,000 for a 0.17-acre lot Indiana Tech claimed was assessed at just $300, but Kriz's apparent success is of universal value because it proves the supremacy of principle over expediency.
“If I went to a flea market and bought a pot for 50 cents and later as offered $250 for it, you might say I was foolish not to sell it – unless it was an antique worth $1,000,” Kriz told me in January when asked to explain why he hadn't made his sliver of land available for the $4 million, three-story residence hall now nearing completion immediately to the east.
But as perturbed as Kriz might have been by the school's offer, he and his attorney, Tom Niezer, were perhaps even more alarmed by planners' decision to exempt the its dorm from certain design guidelines and Indiana Tech real estate agent David Augustyniak's letter warning Kriz that failure to sell would reduce the value of his land “ten-fold” and make its future development “difficult, if not impossible.”
In a subsequent Allen Superior Court lawsuit, Kriz accused the Plan Commission of exceeding its authority and (on the basis of Augstyniak's letter) of improperly devaluing his property. But Kriz dropped the lawsuit last week – just days after Indiana Tech agreed not to object to his project. The letter was signed by Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Judy Roy, who earlier in the year had told Kriz the school would not increase its offer for his property and had “moved on.”
Now, clearly, Kriz is ready to do the same – and there is a certain justice to the likely outcome. As I wrote in January, the Plan Commission's approval of Indiana Tech's project “could make Kriz's property less attractive to developers but could also obligate the Commission to grant Kriz similar latitude should he seek to develop the land.”
And he is seeking similar latitude, asking the Board of Zoning Appeals to waive guidelines for such things as landscaping, parking and property line setbacks – without which it would not be possible “to make minimally effective use of the property,” Niezer's application states. BZA staff members have no objection, presumably clearing the way for approval.
Niezer said income from the four units should more than make up for what his client “lost” by not selling the property. The project by Granite Ridge Builders of Fort Wayne will cater to married students or older undergraduates and will be architecturally compatible with the larger Indiana Tech dorms on “Warrior Row,” he added.
So all's well that ends well, it seems. Indiana Tech – which should not be viewed as the villain here – got what it wanted: another dorm, without paying more than it wanted to pay for land it didn't really need in the first place. And Kris should get what he wanted: equal consideration from the planners, equitable income from the property he has owned for 40 years, and the satisfaction of having been proven right despite the temptation in some quarters to consider him wrong.
And they'll each get something else: a new neighbor.
Indiana Tech has already put up a sturdy fence.