In what might be called a municipal version of the irresistible force against an immovable object, it appears that City Hall has offered an olive branch to those who have illegally, says the city, established a homeless warming shelter inside Mayor Don Williams’ old Taft Fire Hall building.
The city maintains that the building sits in a land use zone that does not allow it to be used as a warming shelter. But the warming shelter non-profit and Mayor Williams went ahead and set one up anyway citing humanitarian reasons since no other facility in the city, they claimed, appeared capable of providing one in time to prevent harsh weather threats to those with no where to go.
In response, City Planning Director Richard Townsend referred the matter to the city’s planning commission for their recommendation as to what should be done. The commission’s consideration and advice to the city council is pending.
But in the meantime, it appears that Townsend may be giving the warming shelter a pathway forward by initiating an effort to change the zoning of the building contingent upon the non-profit’s willingness to obey the rules outlined in the zone change. And in the interim, the shelter would be allowed to remain open provided they play by the rules as if the building already had the proper zoning.
The non-profit wrote to NewsLincolnCounty.com a reaction to this development…
The Lincoln City Warming Shelter is encouraged that the recent notice of violation we received from the city planning department was accompanied by a draft Assurance of Voluntary Compliance (AVC), which presents a clear path forward for the shelter to continue operating for the remainder of the current winter and beyond.
By filing an AVC, our group would give guarantees regarding the opening criteria of the shelter as well as agreeing to apply for an amendment that would update the zoning in the Taft Village Core to allow emergency shelters.
Our board is currently crafting a response to the request for an AVC and we look forward to continuing to serve the most vulnerable members of our community throughout the winter and being active participants in a zoning amendment process that will lay the groundwork for continued service.
President, Lincoln City Warming Shelter