Homeless Shelters to Be Regulated

This morning, protestors supporting Wayside Christian Mission marched up and down Liberty Street with “Jesus Loves All People” and John 3:16 on signs they waved over their head. A few dozen people sang “We Shall Overcome.” It was like the ’60s all over again.

They were there, believe it or not, for a Board of Zoning Adjustment meeting.

BOZA was considering a case involving the need for regulation of homeless shelters. Last spring, when Wayside was attempting to purchase the old Mercy Academy building on East Broadway, it got a ruling from Planning staff that said it was possible their application to locate there would be approved.

Since there are no mentions of homeless shelters in the land development code, no one was certain the use would be allowed. So the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association hired an attorney, Stephen Porter, and filed an appeal of the decision.

The hearing went on this morning for four hours in a tightly-packed room. Wayside, which had orchestrated a highly-visible presence, brought witnesses who testified about the merits of the job they’re doing.  While they tried to make the case about Wayside, the BOZA board was more interested in a loophole in the code.

BOZA approved the appeal and went a few steps further. It decided to form a task force to write new regulations for the code. The Planning Commission, the Metro Council and many other organizations will be invited to be on the task force.

Homeless shelters are not addressed in the zoning code, and the use doesn’t fit into any other categories. So this BOZA move will rectify that.