To the Editor:
Regarding the New Beginnings Shelter location, I, along with others, understand and greatly support the need for a shelter for these families in crisis. However, we cannot overlook the fact that the proposed site is not zoned for shelter use.
The property is zoned T-1 Transition District, which under the city of Elkhorn zoning code in either the permitted or conditional uses does not allow for a shelter or transient facility of any kind. I was an alderman for the city of Elkhorn for 10 years, along with being on the Plan Commission. T-1 zoning came into being during my tenure, and therefore, I am very familiar with it. In addition to not being a permitted or conditional use in this district, the proposed usage as a shelter cannot meet other codes and ordinances.
The location is in a historic area with three single-family homes fronting Church Street, one of which is National Register property. Other adjacent properties are additional single-family homes. The property shares a driveway with my single-family home, and therefore would give the visual impression that the office building is just that and my home with the shared driveway is the shelter. I along with the other adjacent neighbors are extremely concerned about mistaken identity by a perpetrator of violence seeking a shelter resident.
The articles that have been written seem to make light of the danger aspect. However, research has revealed that it is a real threat. The danger is why shelters are located in industrial parks, near jails and hospitals. I have also learned that the shelters are preferably located away from the offices in order to remain “undercover,” with no advertising or agency affiliation. New Beginnings has stated that the Elkhorn Police Department location across the street will be a deterrent. However, the Elkhorn Police Department is open weekdays only — closed nights, weekends and holidays. The police chief has suggested a garage be built on the property to hide residents’ vehicles, and New Beginnings has stated that a “state-of-the-art” security system will be installed. If there is no danger, why are these needed?
New Beginnings has stated the downtown location will allow for the women to shop for groceries, have access to agencies and the children to go to school. However, the proposal is for a transient facility, and I have learned the shelters supply the food and other necessities. The nearest grocery store is 1-1/2 miles away, Elkhorn schools are 1/2 to 2 miles away — assuming the children are even from the Elkhorn School District — and agencies are located at the county complex 2-1/2 miles away.
I, along with others, again applaud the work New Beginnings does. However, the Church Street location is not appropriate for a shelter, but the offices are a permitted use in T-1 zoning. We support New Beginnings moving their offices into the property on Church Street.