City Council Votes In Favor Of Soup Kitchen Zoning Regulations - ABC FOX MONTANA NEWS, WEATHER, SPORTS - KTMF/KWYB

City Council Votes In Favor Of Soup Kitchen Zoning Regulations

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In a preliminary vote Monday night, Missoula City Council unanimously approved permanent zoning regulations on homeless shelters and meal centers for the first time in the city's history.

The topic has been the center of controversy since the Union Gospel Mission of Missoula requested to move their location closer to a residential neighborhood sending angry residents to the city.

Under the new regulations approved by city council in an initial vote, the Union Gospel Mission can't move to a location, directors said, that is better for the population it serves. City officials said an ordinance like this is long over due.

"I think the regulations are good. They are meant to protect residential neighborhoods and be fair where they can locate,"said Tom Zavitz with Missoula Development Services.

Under the new regulation, any homeless shelter or meal center that wants to move locations or open up, has to apply through Missoula's Development Services.

A public hearing would then be held to approve the application. Soup kitchens also couldn't be located with in 300 feet of residential zones, 1,000 feet from a school, and 1,500 feet from another homeless shelter or meal center.

"It leaves significant amount of area, where they can locate and be successful," Zavitz said. 

City council's decision comes after a temporary ordinance was put into place when Union Gospel Mission asked to move to the Sweetheart Bakery location on West Broadway.

Residents in the area went to the city asking for zoning regulations for shelters, something that's never existed in Missoula.

"For one thing, we just haven't had many of the uses apply over time. I think the main reason is we haven't needed any up to this point," Zavitz said.

The new regulations have no affect on the Oversell Center's new location on West Broadway, since the move was approved before the temporary regulations were put in place.

"I think it's important we look specifically at how to provide proper zoning for this use," Zavitz said.

After serving a large portion of Missoula's homeless population, the Pov's Executive Director Eran Fowler Pehan said she sees a need for this type of regulation.

"I think cities across the nation have specific zoning for specific homeless shelters, because they can have an impact on the surrounding neighborhoods and the community," said Fowler Pehan.

City council is slated to makes its final decision on the new zoning regulations on January 27.

The Union Gospel Mission hasn't re-applied to move its location since it first made the proposal. ABC FOX Montana called the Union Gospel Mission to find out where they stand on the issue, but they have not responded.

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