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City Council to discuss zoning lawsfor shelters

July 08, 2003|by SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Hagerstown City Council is scheduled to discuss today whether changes should be made to zoning laws to address future homeless shelters within city limits.

The city's current zoning ordinance does not permit a homeless shelter as a stand-alone use, Planning Director Kathleen A. Maher said in a written report. A homeless shelter would be permissible only as an accessory use to a property such as a church, she said.

She said the city staff wants the council to tell them whether it wants a change in the zoning rules.

The city staff also wants to know in what zoning districts the council wants homeless shelters to be permitted uses.

The issue arose at a June 10 council meeting when the council was told that REACH - Religious Effort to Assist and Care for the Homeless - appealed a request to put a permanent homeless shelter on commercially zoned property at 35 E. Washington St.

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City officials said they thought the shelter was moving into a building on West Franklin Street next to Christ's Reformed Church.

At that meeting, Hagerstown Councilman Lewis C. Metzner said he did not think a shelter should be built in downtown Hagerstown, although he later clarified his remarks to say he meant in the central core of downtown. Metzner said he has no objection to REACH moving into the Franklin Street property.

REACH Executive Director Terri Baker said the Washington Street property, which later was sold to another buyer, was considered as a back-up plan in case negotiations with the church fell through.

Meanwhile, REACH and Christ's Reformed Church reached a tentative agreement to open a permanent homeless shelter on the third floor of the building next to the church, Baker said.

All that remains is for the board of REACH to vote on the matter at its July 14 meeting.

The REACH shelter, which operates during the winter months, currently moves from church to church.

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