NEW PHILADELPHIA (WJER) (March 14, 2023) – The latest proposal for a new homeless shelter was shot down Monday.
It was opposed by the mayor, the law director, and all three members of the Zoning and Annexation Committee who voted against it.
Several residents who live near the proposed site at 435 Fair Ave. NE Rear expressed concerns about crime, traffic, the flood plain, and the impact of adding 40 people and six families in a single living facility to a quiet neighborhood.
The location is behind Preach the Word Ministries on Beaver Avenue Northeast just east of downtown. Esta Stutzman is on the board at that church.
“We will be the ones most affected by this whole thing and we are probably the strongest ones against it; simply for crime, for the children that are back there spring, summer, fall playing in the church.”
Terry Robinson said he would worry about his children’s safety if a homeless shelter was nearby.
“Everybody that’s so for it – put that homeless shelter in your neighborhood and see how you feel.”
Mayor Joel Day and Law Director Marvin Fete in written statements said the proposal should be rejected because it is not a permitted use in residential districts. Councilman and Zoning and Annexation Committee member Dan Lanzer opposed the spot zoning.
“If we open that Pandora’s Box and spot zone, it could be for the whole entire city.”
Fellow Councilman and committee member Mitch Pace agreed.
“I can’t in good faith vote yes or make a motion to move this out of the committee simply because I don’t feel that’s a good spot for it.”
Back to the drawing board
Friends of the Homeless President Joe Svancara says it’s back to the drawing board for the non-profit organization. The Friends are trying to collect $8 million to $10 million to build a new shelter for as many as 40 individuals and six families. They say the one at 211 E. High Ave. is in bad shape and costing too much money in constant upkeep and maintenance.
“We still want to remain in New Philadelphia as much as we can: central location, easy access to the welfare agencies, county seat. We just want to be able to maintain that access. If we have to go a little bit further out, as it’s looking like we have to, then that’s how it has to be.”
Pastor Ben Lippert of Schoenbrunn Moravian Church spoke for the Friends of the Homeless. They gave city council members a letter from the National Homelessness Law Center suggesting the city’s zoning decisions would not survive legal challenges.
“We have a 501c that says we are a nonprofit business, yet the law director tells us we don’t belong in a business district. Then we also have him saying, ‘You’re not multi-family residential.’ We have to qualify as something. The National Homeless Law Center supports us in that. I just hope it doesn’t come to that, but we’ve got to get these people a place. That’s our No. 1 priority and we’ll do whatever it takes to get that.”