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Zoning board defers decision for Human Services shared-living, mental illness

New Castle News - 1/28/2020

Jan. 24--The New Castle Zoning Board of Appeals denied Human Service Center's appeal to open a fairview lodge on North Mercer Street due to its belief the center was in front of the incorrect board at Wednesday's meeting.

"Looking at our zoning ordinance, I feel that you might be in front of the wrong governing body," chairwoman Bess Ondako said. "Whether this is, for lack of a better term, an apartment house or group house, that falls under conditional use in this area and that would be under city council."

Laura Glenn, the director of program planning and development for HSC, and Michele Kelly-Thompson, the executive director of HSC, testified to the motives in opening the lodge at 222 N. Mercer St. as they have five lodges in operation such as ones on Grant Street and Croton Avenue.

"The Red Cross building is one of the projects that we felt we can help continue with support our for our efforts," said Glenn.

A fairweather lodge is a share-living space for adults with serious and persistent mental illness. The lodge would include six individual bedrooms with a shared bathroom and community spaces. It will also have veteran priority, and there won't be a minimum or maximum cap for occupancy.

"I think the work that you guys do is phenomenal, but this is not the appropriate governing body, I believe, for your request," Ondako said. "I think you might have to see city council."

The board then voted 4 to 0 to deny the appeal due to the request being "beyond the scope" of the board.

Prior to the denial, Ondako asked if residents of the lodge would be paying rent.

Glenn explained residents pay rent according to how much they can afford.

"Typically, on average, the average rent is approximately $265 a month," said Glenn. "They do not have to pay a separate cost for utilities and all that. That's an all inclusive cost."

The program also includes an employment component where if residents don't have a full-time job, they will volunteer within the community.

A prior meeting to hear the appeal from HSC was scheduled for Dec.18, 2019, but it was canceled.

The board held reorganization votes prior to the appellates testifying.

Ondako was voted to be the chairwoman. Rich Gormley was voted to be the vice-chairman. Michael Spelich was voted to be the secretary. They were all unanimously voted in, and board member Evelyn Ward was absent.

Eric Ritter was approved to replace Rhonda Dam on the board at a December 2019New Castle City Council meeting.

In other news:

--Fritz Graziani's appeal to install a six-foot chainlink fence and one-foot of barbed wire at 1050 Frew Mill Road was approved.

mbasileo@ncnewsonline.com

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