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Posted on Fri. Apr. 18, 2014 - 12:31 am EDT

Developer, group compromise on trail

Pufferbelly moved to edge of subdivision

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FORT WAYNE — Whisper Rock generated a lot of discussion – and not exactly in hushed tones.

In the end, businessman Mike Thomas and Pufferbelly Trail supporters reached a compromise that won’t dramatically alter his subdivision plans, while still making room for the pathway.

The proposed $20 million housing addition will feature 197 luxury homes costing as much as $600,000 on the south side of West Gump Road. Last week, Thomas and Fort Wayne Trails Inc. butted heads over his development that would have erased a portion of the planned trail.

During an Allen County Plan Commission business meeting Thursday, both sides said they agreed to allow the trail to cut through the northwest edge of the Whisper Rock subdivision.

Plan Commission members unanimously approved a rezoning request from agricultural to single-family residential, but were divided on Whisper Rock’s primary plan, although it was approved.

Vice President Ken Neumeister and members David Bailey, Darren Vogt, Harold Kleine and Gonzalee Martin voted in favor of the project. Therese Brown, Renee Fishering and Susan Hoot were opposed.

President Allan Frisinger abstained from voting. The county’s surveyor said he felt Whisper Ridge should connect with the neighboring Timber Ridge subdivision. As for the agreement between Thomas and Fort Wayne Trails, Frisinger said he’s glad they think they can make it work.

County commissioners will decide if the project gets a final nod in coming weeks.

For now, the differences that marked last week’s public hearing are in the past, and Lori Rose, executive director of Fort Wayne Trails, is pleased to move forward. She said the residential project cuts through about 3,200 feet of path planned for Pufferbelly.

“It will take anywhere from $500,000 to $800,000 to develop that area,” she said. “It won’t happen right away. We’re a nonprofit, so we depend on grants and donations.”

Thomas did not attend Thursday’s meeting. Last week, he was adamant that Pufferbelly Trail could have no part in his subdivision.

The developer has worked with Fort Wayne Trails in the past.

In fact, Thomas made room for the trail when developing the Tuscany subdivision in Perry Township on the northwest corner of Carroll and Corbin roads. That section of the pathway, however, hasn’t come to fruition.

In the next week or so, Fort Wayne Trails intends to ask the Allen County commissioners for a $100,000 loan to help get started on another phase of Pufferbelly Trail. The organization has raised $200,000 toward the project and has agreed to repay the county within two years.

Fort Wayne Trails was founded in 2011 when Greenway Consortium, Aboite New Trails and Northwest Allen Trails combined.

Fort Wayne Trails is in the midst of a 2-year-old plan called Countdown to Connectivity to secure land and money for more than 250 miles of proposed trails in Allen County.

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