A proposal to locate the city’s homeless shelter on the eastern edge of Lawrence won a key vote of support from the Planning Commission, despite growing opposition from developers and some neighbors.
The Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission late Monday night recommended approval of a special use permit for the Lawrence Community Shelter to locate in a warehouse next to the Douglas County Jail. The issue will go to the City Commission on April 13 for final consideration.
Planning commissioners approved the deal, 5-2, ex-pressing confidence that providing the shelter with a larger facility would allow it to offer significantly better programs than at its current facility at 10th and Kentucky streets.
“This is going to be a better shelter with much different results, I believe,” said Planning Commissioner Hugh Carter.
Shelter director Loring Henderson said the new shelter would not serve as a drop-in facility. Unlike the current building, only people who are staying at the shelter will be allowed to be at the shelter during the day.
Planning commissioners did condition their approval on a bus stop being added to the area, and the approval is tied to a specific site plan that creates a fenced outdoor area in the back of the building designed to eliminate loitering in other areas.
The plan drew opposition from several neighbors who live in the rural area south of the site. The president of the Prairie Park Neighborhood Association also spoke against the plan. Several large developers who own property in the area also spoke against the plan, telling commissioners that a shelter would stunt the area’s ability to become commercially viable.
“You can’t create jobs in a vacuum,” said Bill Newsome, who is in a group that owns 180 acres of commercial and residential land near 23rd Street and O’Connell Road. “Surrounding land uses are critical to creating jobs.”
The project did receive support from some members of the city’s social service community and some members of Downtown Lawrence Inc. The current shelter would close once the new facility opens.
Commissioners Charlie Dominguez and Jeff Chaney voted against the recommendation. Commissioners Lisa Harris and Charles Blaser were absent. Commissioner Richard Hird abstained.