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Archive for Wednesday, November 23, 1994

CITY DELAYS PERMIT DECISION

November 23, 1994

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The city will wait three weeks before deciding whether an advocacy center for mentally ill clients should shut down.

Project Acceptance, a 24-hour drop-in center and transitional housing program at 407 Maine, first must answer questions about its operations in the wake of neighbors' complaints, said Gerald Cooley, city attorney.

"I don't want to jump to conclusions," Cooley told Lawrence city commissioners Tuesday night.

Residents on both sides of the Project Acceptance home have complained for months about people from the center trespassing on their property.

Rex Sterrett, 401 Maine, wrote Mayor Jo Andersen a letter six months ago detailing several incidents of harassment -- including one in which his family's lives were threatened.

"Even if half of what we've read is true, it's significant," Commissioner Bob Schulte said. "My concern is for people's safety, and we should not delay for too long."

Commissioners agreed to reconsider the center's permit Dec. 13. Revoking the permit would force the center to close or attempt to relocate.

Barry Shalinsky, an attorney who volunteered to help the center through Tuesday night's meeting, asked commissioners to hold off until all facts were sorted.

"There are a lot of procedural and legal questions that are not clear at this time," he said.

For two years, the center has provided mentally ill clients free respite care for up to 30 days, as well as given drop-in visitors aged 18 to 83 an informal gathering place for fellowship, mutual support and various social and recreational activities. Supporters say the service is necessary.

But Sterrett's already had enough -- of people shining headlights into his living room window, urinating on his house and trying to kick in his front door.

"I don't care who you are, there has to be some fear, or excess concern," he said after the meeting. "I don't know who I'm dealing with."

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