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Zoning regulations for homeless shelters

Zoning regulations for homeless shelters
Posted on 02/07/2020
folding cotsUPDATE: The March 24 joint session of the City Council and Planning Commission to discuss this topic has been postponed. The meeting will be rescheduled for a different date after the state of emergency related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) is lifted. Please check back for details. 

The City of Lenexa has begun an in-depth process to update City Code to more comprehensively address how homeless shelters are regulated throughout the community. This process will address which zones can accommodate a shelter use and to what extent churches can include sheltering the homeless as an accessory use of their facility.

Homelessness in Johnson County 

Homelessness is increasing in Johnson County as it is across the country. Each year the United Community Services of Johnson County’s Continuum of Care on Homelessness conducts a point-in-time count of the homeless in our county. Their most recent count, which took place on Jan. 22, 2019, identified 189 persons in Johnson County in emergency shelters, transitional housing or living in a place not meant for human habitation. After years of decline, this was the second year in a row that number has increased.

“Like so many communities in the United States, we are grappling with this important issue,” said City Manager Beccy Yocham. “The City of Lenexa wants to be part of a comprehensive solution to the homeless issue in Johnson County.”

Zoning Regulations

Communities use zoning regulations to separate land uses with similar impacts into distinct categories. This helps ensure that impacts—like traffic, parking, noise, intensity of use and hours of operation are appropriately managed and reasonably uniform within each zoning district.

“Our zoning codes help make sure that each type of area—whether it be residential, agricultural or commercial—is created and maintained in a way that respects the character of the land, allows property owners to rely on certain expectations for the area, and does not overburden nearby infrastructure or services,” said Yocham. We take our responsibility to apply codes consistently and neutrally very seriously, on behalf of all of our citizens.”

Not every possible land use is defined in zoning regulations. If a proposed use is not specifically defined in our code, city staff must determine which defined use most closely resembles the planned use. Homeless and temporary shelters are not specifically addressed in Lenexa City Code, and the use does not fit neatly into any land use defined currently in the code.

For this reason, the City has begun an in-depth process to update City Code to more comprehensively address how homeless shelters are regulated throughout the community. This process will address which zones can accommodate a shelter use and to what extent churches can include sheltering the homeless as an accessory use of their facility.

We invite residents and other stakeholders to participate in the process to help us create regulations that work for the whole community.

“It is important that we hear from residents as we create these regulations. We encourage everyone to think about this issue and share their feedback with the City,” said Community Development Director Scott McCullough.

Like all codes, the Lenexa City Council will be the ultimate decision maker on new regulations.

Project 1020

The Shawnee Mission Unitarian Universalist Church, located at 9400 Pflumm Rd. in Old Town, approached the City in October 2019 asking that Project 1020 be allowed to operate a cold weather overnight homeless shelter in its facility. The church is located in a former elementary school in a Single Family Residential zoning district.

The City determined that a homeless shelter was not a permitted accessory use to the church in a Single Family Residential zoning district. After the church sued the City in U.S. District Court in November, the City and the church reached an agreement that allows Project 1020 to operate a homeless shelter in the church over three winter seasons ending in 2022, or until the Lenexa City Council adopts new codes regulating homeless shelters, if that occurs sooner. The shelter can operate nightly from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., and up to 30 adults can stay each night.

“This agreement enabled the homeless population to be served temporarily while we work toward a comprehensive solution that serves the entire community,” said Yocham.

Questions about the operation of the shelter should be directed to Project 1020 at 913.219.3347 or through its website project1020.com

Timeline

February
City staff meet with religious institutions and social service providers to receive input about this topic.

Through March 18
Residents and other stakeholders shared input through a survey.

March 24 (Meeting postponed)
Lenexa City Council and Lenexa Planning Commission hold a joint work session. During this meeting, the Council and Commission will receive staff’s recommended draft of the regulations. The public is invited to provide comment at this meeting. While no decision can be made at this meeting, elected officials can give general direction to City staff. This meeting will be rescheduled for a different date after the state of emergency related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) is lifted. Please check back for details. The other dates on this schedule will likely be impacted because of this postponement.

May 4 or June 1 
The Planning Commission will consider new regulations during a regularly scheduled meeting at 7 p.m. The public is invited to share their thoughts on the proposed regulations at the public hearing on this item during this meeting. Get the latest news and updates from the City of Lenexa in your email inbox. Sign up at Lenexa.com/ENews.

Mid-May or Mid-June
(depending on date of Planning Commission consideration/action)
The Planning Commission’s recommended regulations will be considered by the Lenexa City Council during a regularly scheduled meeting.


Published February 7, 2020
Updated March 24, 2020