More challenges coming for proposed homeless site - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

More challenges coming for proposed homeless site

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COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - New developments in the battle over a new homeless center for Columbia. The center would be located at Main and Elmwood Street -- the headquarters for the city's Salvation Army.

On Friday, attorneys for a neighborhood organization challenged the plan in court.

Thanks to a zoning exception approved in 1999, the old motel served for years as a temporary home for the homeless.

Now, business and civic leaders who form the Midlands Housing Alliance want to tear down some of the buildings and put up a new homeless center.

Neighborhood groups are trying to block the plan by arguing that zoning exception no longer applies.

Friday morning, opponents took their challenge to court. They say the project poses a danger to the surrounding area.

Plantiff's attorney Stephen Fitzer said, "The Midlands Housing Allliance has repeatedly said they will not screen for violent sexual predators. This is despite the fact that within a one block radius there are two or three treatment facilities for impaired children. There is a school. There is an adult center. And there are three or four thriving neighborhoods."

Bill Adams is a member of Main Street United Methodist Church. He says, "My feeling is that you can build a homeless shelter out of granite with marble columns. But it's still a homeless shelter. And so therefore you will have homeless people roaming the streets, panhandling."

Attorneys for the city and the Alliance say the property's zoning status is still valid.

Alliance attorney Jack Pringle said, "Even if the reconfiguration -- the property still has the special exception to do the exact thing your honor that it was granted the authority to do."

City and alliance attorneys say the Board of Zoning Appeals thoroughly studied all aspects of the $15 million project.

Judge Ernest Kinard says he might have a ruling on the legal challenge in a few weeks.

Reported by Jack Kuenzie

Posted by Jeremy Turnage

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