Traverse City Record-Eagle

Archive: Saturday

June 14, 2014

Safe Harbor back before city commission

TRAVERSE CITY — An expected debate over a zoning change that could allow a 100-bed emergency homeless shelter in a city-owned warehouse will focus on the size and need for the facility.

Opponents charge the zoning amendment that city commissioners will consider Monday at 7 p.m. in the Governmental Center specifically was written by city planning commissioners to accommodate an existing homeless center proposal.

“Our experts in our neighborhood say it is way too many and these shelters can appear anywhere in town,” said Susan Kuschell, who lives near the proposed emergency shelter site.

The amendment would allow emergency shelters to open in all commercial zones except the downtown, under special use permits that would require they be compatible with the neighborhood. A homeless shelter would also have to meet nine other standards to gain approval.

Safe Harbor of Grand Traverse Inc. proposes to convert a city-owned warehouse on Wellington Street one block south of Eighth Street into an emergency shelter capable of serving up to 100 people a night. The permanent facility would replace a system of housing the homeless among of revolving group of 23 churches.

The 100-bed limit became a controversial issue among planning commissioners, who settled on the limit based in part on Safe Harbor’s reporting their churches housed over 70 people on some occasions.

Commissioner Jeanine Easterday, who also sits on the planning commission, said 100 beds is the upper limit, not the target. Other requirements in the special use permit could limit the number even more, she said

Mayor Michael Estes said he found too many coincidences in the 100-bed limit and other language in the amendment that is favorable to Safe Harbor’s proposal.

“The exact description they need to comply has been incorporated into the ordinance,” Estes said. “And this is the absolute wrong approach to deal with the homeless.”

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