Leaders with the Lawrence Community Shelter have filed a lawsuit in Douglas County District Court seeking to remove any questions about whether the homeless shelter can move to an eastern Lawrence warehouse.
The lawsuit — filed Wednesday afternoon — centers on whether long-standing covenants prohibit a vacant warehouse building at 3701 Franklin Park Circle from being used as a homeless shelter. Investors of the Franklin Business Park argue the covenants prohibit the shelter. Shelter leaders contend the covenants only govern how the project must be designed, which they said are conditions that can be met.
“We’ve sat down with the business park folks and have done everything they’ve wanted us to do, but they just won’t budge from their position,” said Price Banks, who along with Lawrence attorney Jerry Wells, is representing the shelter. “We don’t really have any other recourse.”
Lawrence attorney Todd Thompson, who represents the business park investors, said Wednesday afternoon that he had no comment because he had not yet seen the court filing. An attempt to reach Lawrence businessman Steve Glass, who leads the business park group, was unsuccessful.
Shelter Director Loring Henderson said he doesn’t believe the lawsuit will do anything to delay the shelter project. He said the shelter recently signed a contract to purchase the building, although the purchase is contingent upon the covenant issue being resolved.
“We still feel very good about it,” Henderson said. “We’re still very excited.”
Henderson said he hopes to take possession of the building in early 2011, which would allow the shelter to open by fall 2011.
The shelter is asking the court for declaratory judgment on the issue, a process that Wells said hopefully will allow the case to move more quickly than a standard lawsuit.
Timing is an issue for the shelter. The shelter has raised more than half of the $3 million needed for the project, but some of the donations must be spent within about a year.
The shelter is proposing to move from its current location at 10th and Kentucky streets into the former warehouse, which is just east of the Douglas County Jail. The new 125-bed shelter would have about 15,000 square feet of shelter, dining, classroom and office space. The current shelter has about 7,700 square feet. The new site also has 10,000 square feet of space that shelter leaders plan to use for a workforce training program.