By Brandi Makuski
City Plan Commissioners on Monday will consider granting a conditional use permit for a downtown warming shelter.
The proposed shelter will be located at Franciscans Downtown, 1000 Main Street.
One of the groups behind the shelter’s creation, Evergreen Community Initiatives, had hoped to open the center in November but did not obtain the required permit from the city. The center is located in a business district and not zoned for temporary housing.
“Current city ordinances have made it impossible for us open by our previous proposed timeline,” the group said in a statement to the media.
The group has since circulated a petition encouraging the city to approve the permit. By Monday morning, that petition contained 1,065 signatures.
Joel Besemer of Evergreen Community Initiatives said the group was unaware it needed the permit.
“But we’re moving forward at full speed to get all the red tape out of the way,” Besemer said.
Police Chief Marty Skibba said other temporary shelters, to include the Salvation Army, are typically filled to capacity and he supports the creation of a new shelter. But with several busy taverns and after-dark foot traffic, he’s not convinced downtown is the ideal location.
“We deal with this issue every year during the cold weather, but we typically have had resources at our disposal which we feel adequately deals with the situation, whether it be the Salvation Army, or some other local resource,” Skibba said. “That’s not to say the problem won’t become more concerning, but in my time at this department this has not been a pressing issue in the community.”
Besemer said the group plans to open the shelter, which could house about a dozen people each night, only at night.
“Someone from [ECI] will be there every night,” Besemer said. “I plan on doing a lot of sleeping at the center.”
The group will address the city plan commission at 6 PM on Dec. 7. The proposal then moves on to the full city council on Dec. 21.
The plan commission meets at Lincoln Center, 1519 Water Street. The public is welcome.