A public hearing scheduled Thursday night at North Wilkesboro Town Hall on the proposed site of a new and larger Catherine H. Barber Homeless Shelter was postponed to 6 p.m. Aug. 22 at the Stone Center for the Performing Arts on Cherry Street, North Wilkesboro.
It was postponed due to the overflow crowd that showed up for the hearing at Town Hall.
The public hearing is before the North Wilkesboro Zoning Board of Adjustment, which will decide whether to approve two variances and a conditional use permit requested by the shelter board for the proposed new shelter site.
Zoning Board of Adjustment Chairperson Lisa Casey made the decision to postpone and move to a larger venue because at least 68 people were seated inside the board room at Town Hall, another dozen or so were standing in the room’s foyer and more than a dozen more were standing outside Town Hall with no way to enter the building.
The board room and foyer has a maximum safe capacity of 68 persons, as was stated on a sign posted outside the room by the North Wilkesboro Fire Department. North Wilkesboro Fire Chief Jimmy Martin took a head count about 10 minutes prior to the 6 p.m. meeting and announced the numbers to Casey.
The shelter board of directors on Monday night voted to proceed with efforts to build a new homeless shelter on property next to Beulah Presbyterian Church at 108 Sparta Road (N.C. 18 North) in the Fairplains community of North Wilkesboro.
The shelter board held the vote because of opposition it recently encountered in the Fairplains community to the board’s plans for building a new and larger homeless shelter next to Beulah Presbyterian.
Chairman Elizabeth Huffman said the vote to move ahead with the site next to the church was unanimous. This includes continuing with seeking regulatory approval needed from the zoning board for building the shelter on the 1.60-acre parcel adjacent to the church.
The shelter board requested two variances and a conditional use permit from the board of adjustment allowing a homeless shelter at 108 Sparta Road. This regulatory approval is needed due to an amendment to the North Wilkesboro Zoning Ordinance approved by the North Wilkesboro commissioners on May 8, 2018.
The shelter board is seeking variances from two requirements of the amendment. One prohibits a homeless shelter from being within 250 feet of any property zoned or used for residential purposes and the other says a homeless shelter must have access to a public sidewalk.
According to a legal notice announcing the hearing, the proposed homeless shelter site is within 115 feet of a residence and the shelter board is seeking a variance of 135 feet. The shelter board is also seeking a variance from having to have access to a public sidewalk because none exist in the vicinity.
The zoning ordinance also requires that homeless shelters have conditional use permits.
The zoning amendment approved last year also says a homeless shelter can’t be within 2,500 feet of another homeless shelter and that it “must be in harmony with the area in which it is located and be in general conformity with the (town’s) comprehensive plan.”
The shelter board is trying to raise $500,000 for building a shelter with capacity for 40 homeless people. Shelter board members say the current shelter, which can provide temporary shelter for 11 at a time, isn’t large enough to meet existing needs. The proposed facility would have a learning center and full kitchen.
Dan Huffman, a member of the shelter board and Elizabeth Huffman’s husband, said the shelter board has invested thousands of dollars on a site survey and site studies, which were required, on the parcel next to Beulah Presbyterian.
Besides Casey, other zoning board members are Freida Matthews, Monica Hawn, Mike Staley and Jane Wilborn. Michael Parsons and Martha Nichols are alternates. Members are