The Catherine H. Barber Homeless 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 North Wilkesboro Zoning Board of Adjustment 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. The board of adjustment is scheduled to hold a public hearing on these requests at 6 p.m. Thursday on the commissioners’ room in town hall on Ninth Street. It isn’t clear if the board of adjustment will act on the requests that night.

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 shelter 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.

Lisa Casey chairs the North Wilkesboro Zoning Board of Adjustment. The other members are Freida Matthews, Monica Hawn, Mike Staley and Jane Wilborn. Michael Parsons and Martha Nichols are alternates. Members are appointed by the North Wilkesboro commissioners.

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