THE owner of a former Chicken Delight on Corydon Avenue has accused Fort Coun. Jenny Gerbasi of working behind the scenes to scuttle the redevelopment of his commercial property.
But the allegation comes at a time when Gerbasi is not allowed to speak about the development, as a public hearing is slated for early December.
Since June 2011, a former Chicken Delight has stood vacant at the southeast corner of Corydon and Stafford Avenue. Moe Investments, which owns the building, has an agreement to lease the building to Cara Foods, which wants to open a Harvey's fast-food restaurant at the site.
Although city zoning rules in 2008 make it impossible to open a new drive-through window on the Corydon Strip, Harvey's would have been free to operate a drive-through if Cara Foods' application came forward within a year of Chicken Delight's closure.
But the Harvey's application didn't come forward until this summer, after the one-year grace period ended. Moe Investments director Munther Zeid now accuses Gerbasi of keeping him and his prospective tenant in the dark.
"We didn't know about it. They didn't know about it," Zeid said. "But she was working behind the scenes to kill it."
To prove his point, Zeid produced a transcript of email conversations between Gerbasi, city planners and the Corydon Business Improvement Zone about the expiration of the drive-through grace period.
In December 2011, city planner Michael Robinson told Gerbasi the permitted use would expire in June 2012.
"Bad news," Gerbasi then told Corydon BIZ director Katia von Stackelberg and developer Ernie Walter. "If they apply for permits before June 2012, they can re-establish the drive-through."
Months later, the Corydon BIZ sent city solicitor Michael Jack a letter supporting Zeid and the drive-through. But the property owner remains angry that no one -- not Gerbasi, not planners and not the BIZ -- told him about the application deadline.
He is now attempting to remove the property from a special development zone encompassing the Corydon Strip. If successful, the move might allow a chance for the Harvey's to have a drive-through in a redeveloped version of the now-vacant building.
Zeid said leasing agent Shindico worked hard to bring Cara Foods to the table. He said he will miss out on $5,000 of rent every month if the deal falls through.
Zeid also said he has had conversations with Gerbasi in which the councillor told him she opposed a drive-through. But she said she could not comment Friday, noting anything she said could prejudice the upcoming public hearing.
This is the second time in four months Gerbasi has been embroiled in a Corydon controversy. In July, the Corydon BIZ, several property owners and Transcona Coun. Russ Wyatt criticized her role in a Corydon planning framework cancelled by council's property committee.
Given that controversy -- and tensions over real estate at city hall -- Zeid said he understands everyone at city hall is on edge.
"They don't want to be caught doing anything wrong," he said.
"But we ran a drive-through at this (location) for 15 years and had no issues."