The board voted on Tuesday to make the change in the permit after a group of residents who live near the Gateway to Hope Day Resource Center complained about homeless people at the day center littering, panhandling, stealing from businesses, and loitering around their homes.
Eleno Licea, a former Planning and Zoning Board member who is acting as a spokesperson for the residents, translated for the group of Spanish speakers at the meeting on Tuesday.
“We are not against what Gateway is doing — we just wish it didn’t have the side effects that it does,” Licea told board members.
Licea told board members the residents thought they had to wait one year before bringing their concerns to the board. “They were told to call the police or see you in a year,” Licea said.
Board Member Amy McCullough said to the residents that she was sorry the conflicts between them and the shelter owners had not been resolved.
“A new way needs to be developed to communicate between the residents and the shelter,” she said.
It was Board Member William Sheehy’s idea to extend the special use permit to one year.
Efforts to create the one-year-old resource center stem from an earlier recommendation from Mayor Barbara Bass’ homeless task force, which agreed a well-run resource center can go a long way in helping people help themselves. The city currently owns the property that the day center occupies.
City officials had planned to ultimately convey ownership of the Valentine Street property to Gateway to Hope so long as it operates for public purposes. But if the intended use changes, ownership can revert back to the city.
Pat Mallory, executive director of Gateway, was present at the meeting and said afterward that she “was very disappointed” with the board’s decision.
Before the residents came forward with their concerns, Ms. Mallory told board members of the center’s success stories about helping residents find jobs and finding permanent homes for families. She thanked the city for allowing them to use the building, saying the Day Resource Center had 8,923 guests in six months and that 91 jobs had been obtained since the opening.
“We offer showers and laundry and have found housing for three families, a total of 18 people,” Ms. Mallory said.
The board’s recommendation will go before city council at its March 27 meeting.
The board also agreed to allow for a zone change a four-story 119 room Residence Inn hotel could be built, as long as certain design changes are made.
The designers of the hotel, planned for 350 W. Heritage Drive, have agreed to reconfigure the entrance of the hotel so the entrance driveway is on Broadway rather than Heritage after a resident expressed concerns about the impact on her home.
Mark Priestner, president of Planning Concepts, said his company would put up a fence with landscaping to front Heritage Drive. It was also agreed to make sure the planned basketball court did not have lights and would only be operated during daytime hours.