A plan to move the city’s lone homeless shelter to a site near Douglas County Jail is facing one of its last hurdles at City Hall on Tuesday.
But it has become clearer that a possible legal hurdle remains for the Lawrence Community Shelter.
At their weekly meeting, city commissioners will consider approving the management plan for the proposed 125-bed shelter that would be in a vacant warehouse just east of the jail.
Commissioners, though, also will be warned that surrounding owners in the business park don’t believe a homeless shelter fits and believe it may violate covenants that are placed on the site.
“The covenants run with the land and apply to future owners,” Steve Glass, a member of the business park’s board of trustees, told commissioners in a letter. “In that regard it is important to note that a seller may sell a property to anyone without regard to the proposed use, but the buyer of the land will not be able to use the property for a prohibited use. … I feel it is only fair to let you know that serious questions have been raised as to whether the proposed shelter use would comply with the covenants.”
But shelter director Loring Henderson said nothing in the letter has given shelter leaders pause to reconsider the site. Glass and shelter leaders have been meeting over the last couple of months, and Henderson said he’s confident an agreement can be reached.
“The covenants have to do with fencing and screenings and those type of issues,” Henderson said. “We’re willing to agree to pretty much whatever they want in those regards.”
Attempts to reach Glass for comment weren’t successful Friday, but he’s previously indicated that he believes the residential nature of the shelter is prohibited by the covenants.
Shelter leaders said the issue shouldn’t be up for City Commission discussion because the covenants are a private contract. Instead, commissioners are being asked to approve the management plan.
Shelter leaders met with neighbors three times over the summer, and Henderson said he believes the management plan will produce a shelter that looks much different from the existing facility at 10th and Kentucky streets.
“I think it will be a more stable environment,” Henderson said.
Among the key provisions of the management plan:
• The new shelter will not operate a drop-in center. People using the shelter will have to be enrolled in programs to access any part of the facility.
• The shelter will have a stringent no-loitering policy. Guests only will be allowed to congregate outside in a fenced area behind the building.
• A “good neighbor” committee will be formed that will meet regularly and review any policy changes at the shelter. The exact make-up of the group hasn’t been determined, but Henderson said it will have an equal number of staff members and neighbors.
Neighbors already have been presented with the plan and previously have expressed concerns about whether the policies go far enough.
One of the neighborhood leaders — the owner of Hillcrest Wrecker, which is across the street from the proposed site — didn’t return a phone call seeking comment about the latest plan.
Commissioners meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.