A group of neighbors is appealing the Madison Plan Commission’s recent approval of the Salvation Army’s roughly $25 million project to build an expanded homeless shelter and develop low-cost housing on the Near East Side.
The city was unable to verify an initial appeal petition submitted on Nov. 21 and on Monday asked the neighbors to submit an amended appeal by the end of the business day on Wednesday. The neighbors did so.
On Monday, the city will review the appeal to see if it meets the requirement of having 20% of owners within 200 feet of the Salvation Army’s project site on the 600 block of East Washington Avenue, Assistant City Attorney John Strange said.
If the standard is met, the City Council will receive the appeal request on Tuesday and set a hearing date for the future, likely at the council’s following meeting, Strange said. It takes a two-thirds vote of the 20-member council to modify or reverse the Plan Commission’s decision.
Opponents say the redevelopment, which would increase the normal capacity of the shelter from about 150 people to 350, would draw more crime to the area.
The Salvation Army has said the project is desperately needed because its current facility at 630 E. Washington Ave., originally designed as a Catholic school, is outdated, at capacity and the shelter must refuse as many homeless people as it takes in.
Salvation Army officials could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Ald. Patrick Heck, 2nd District, who sits on the Plan Commission and represents the area including the site, said he has not yet seen the petition and declined comment.
The Plan Commission on Nov. 12 gave demolition and conditional-use approvals for the redevelopment, which includes a five-story building with emergency shelter and transitional housing at East Washington Avenue and Blount Street; a one-story attached gymnasium/auditorium/chapel with mezzanine-level track, outdoor playground and separate entry behind the main building in the center of the block; and a three-story apartment building, with 40 to 45 units at North Blount and East Mifflin streets.
At the commission meeting, opponents said the problem isn’t with those who seek shelter, but with those who get turned away and cause problems in the surrounding neighborhood. But others argued that a larger building would bring more people in off the streets, improving safety in the area.
To address some safety concerns, commission members added conditions that require the Salvation Army to add more fencing along the property line and security cameras that cover all spaces in the facility.
Unsatisfied, neighbors are asking the council to reverse the commission’s approvals, contending the commission failed to consider if the approvals would be “detrimental to or endanger public health, safety and welfare.” The petition says police calls to the existing property have rose steadily from 208 in 2014 to 396 in 2018.
Also, the petition says the commission did not conduct a study to determine if property values would be impaired when making its decision.