Jacksonville Plans Commission Denies Zoning Ordinance Change, Homeless Warming Center Denied Rezoning on East State St.

By Benjamin Cox on November 5, 2020 at 11:42am

An overnight warming shelter for the homeless in Jacksonville is back to square one. The Jacksonville Plans Commission last night denied text changes to the city’s zoning ordinance that would allow the Krush Time/Times Theatre location at 231 East State Street to have a special use permit to house the shelter.

Chairman Michael Oldenettel says that the textual changes to the ordinance had nothing to do with the heart of the matter for helping the city’s homeless to find a safe place to stay at night: “I believe that what it came down to was changing text language for a business district specifically for the Downtown Area, there was a challenge for the commission members on whether to allow any business or property to have a warming center within it. It is very aspirational, the idea in and of itself, yes, we need this but is this the right location? What the commission has to do is we have to be consistent in any changes to any properties and we have had that goal for decades to be consistent in our findings, but also to be consistent in not having things outside of their scope, outside of their intent, and outside of the zoning map itself from happening where it shouldn’t. I think the commission felt there should be a better place than this small B-2 specific only to Downtown businesses for a warming center.”

Oldenettel says that he hopes another location can be found because of the need. Jacksonville Police Chaplain Alan Bradish says he was disappointed that the work he has put in at the location cannot move any further. Bradish says he doesn’t see a path forward at this point: “We really don’t have a contingency plan. That was the concern with New Directions closing their doors nobody else opening up their doors. This was a measure that we were hoping would be a stop-gap measure, an emergency measure that we were trying to put in place to accommodate those who would have that need. We had just a mix of some people being very charitable and others being very resistant. I don’t know truthfully anywhere that you would find a little bit of that mix wherever you did decide to establish a shelter. We’ve tried numerous venues for shelters, and they haven’t worked out. Either the property owner wasn’t agreeable or we couldn’t get access to the property.”

Bradish says he tried to lease a building on the old Jacksonville Developmental Center grounds in Community Park but the State of Illinois is not opening up any buildings on the property to anyone. He says if a charitable donor would like to step forward to purchase one of the MacMurray College dormitory buildings for approximately $100,000 or more at their auction on November 12th, he would be happy to work with them to place a shelter in one of those buildings. For now, Bradish says he will try to find a way with the current means available to keep the homeless in the city warm overnight until another option presents itself.