New homeless shelter codes approved

New homeless shelter codes approved
Posted on 03/17/2021

New City code language has been approved to allow homeless shelters in certain commercial zoning districts and all places of worship, subject to certain criteria.

The Lenexa City Council voted to pass an ordinance approving amendments to multiple sections of the City’s Unified Development Code to address homeless shelters at its March 16 meeting.

Code update overview

In summary, the approved amendments:

  • Add a Homeless Shelter definition.
  • Allow a homeless shelter with a Special Use Permit (SUP) in three commercial zoning districts – CP-2, CP-3 and CP-4. The occupant load would be determined as part of the SUP process, and supplementary regulations would apply.
    • The shelter would have to submit a management plan.
    • The maximum number of homeless individuals would be based on various factors described in the ordinance.
    • The duration of the SUP would be a maximum of five years, both for the initial approval and any renewals.
    • The SUP can be revoked at any time by the Governing Body upon a determination that the shelter is in violation of the supplementary use standards or any other City Code requirement.
  • Allow a homeless shelter as an accessory use to a place of worship with a maximum of 10 guests, subject to specific criteria.
  • Allow a homeless shelter as an accessory use to a place of worship with a maximum of 30 guests, subject to specific criteria.
    • The building housing the shelter must be at least 30,000 square feet in size.
    • The property where the shelter is located must be within one mile of a public transportation stop, or the shelter must have reliable access to transportation.
    • A shelter exceeding 10 individuals may only operate from November 1 through April 1.

All homeless shelters – whether they’re an accessory use or have a special use permit – would be required to:

  • Have at least two employees/and or volunteers on the premises during all operational hours for the first 10 guests and one additional employee and/or volunteer for every 10 additional guests, or portion thereof.
  • Apply and receive approval for a new certificate of occupancy, including compliance with all building and fire codes.

Project history

The City of Lenexa started an in-depth process to update its code to more comprehensively address homeless shelters in late 2019, after a local church asked that a not-for-profit group be allowed to host an overnight shelter in its facility.

Homeless shelters were not defined as a land use in Lenexa’s zoning regulations, which are outlined in the City’s Unified Development Code. Zoning separates land uses with similar impacts into districts to help ensure these impacts – like traffic, parking, noise, use intensity and hours of operation – are appropriately managed and reasonably uniform. Zoning respects the character of the surrounding land, infrastructure and services while allowing certain expectations for nearby property owners.

As part of this in-depth process, City staff sought public input from an online survey, a stakeholder meeting and testimony at several public meetings. In drafting the proposed amendments, staff considered and reviewed:

  • How other municipalities regulate homeless shelters.
  • Which zoning districts can accommodate a shelter use.
  • The impacts of a homeless shelter on the community.
  • The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act to ensure places of worship would not be treated differently than other similar land uses.
  • How to provide paths in the code for homeless shelters of various sizes and intensities to locate in Lenexa.

Draft code language was reviewed by the Governing Body at Committee of the Whole meetings on August 25, 2020, and Jan. 26, 2021. The Planning Commission voted to recommend approval of the code amendments at its March 1, 2021 meeting. Recommendations made at each of these meetings were incorporated into the final code language.

More information about the code amendments and project process is available in the March 16 Governing Body meeting packet.

Published March 17, 2021