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DOAH rules in favor of City Walk Mahan Drive shelter permit with conditions

A new ruling from the Department of Administrative Hearings Office is in favor of a permit with conditions for City Walk Urban Mission’s shelter on Mahan Drive.
Published: Nov. 22, 2021 at 10:28 AM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - A new ruling from the Department of Administrative Hearings Office is in favor of a permit with conditions for City Walk Urban Mission’s shelter along Mahan Drive.

The final decision will rest with the City’s Planning Commission; the ruling is a recommendation.

DOAH recommended the City grant City Walk’s application to operate, contingent upon multiple conditions. The ruling was based on the existence of homeless encampments in the area and inconclusiveness in the data regarding an increase in crime.

According to the filing, City Walk has operated as a Transitional Residential Facility, not a low-barrier shelter, since March of 2021.

The Administrative Judge wrote that the City did not meet its burden of proof that City Walk is a nuisance, despite complaints from nearby neighbors and businesses.

The judge said the concerns of residents can be addressed in the conditions he recommends adding to the permit.

The conditions to operate include:

  1. Maintain current security protocols which must include camera surveillance monitored in real time with dedicated staff patrolling the grounds;
  2. No resident discharges between the hours of midnight and 7:00 a.m.;
  3. If there is an urgent need that requires discharge of a resident between the hours of midnight and 7:00 a.m., then City Walk shall obtain the assistance of law enforcement or private security;
  4. Vigorous enforcement of City Walk’s existing prohibitions against panhandling, loitering, traveling through certain neighborhoods, and patronizing certain businesses;
  5. No acceptance of anyone who has been convicted of a sex-related offense;
  6. No admission of anyone who is prohibited by statute from residing at 1709 Mahan Drive due to the proximity of schools and daycare facilities;
  7. Capping the number of full-time residents at 64;
  8. No provision of basic necessities such as food and clothing to anyone who is not a resident;
  9. Maintenance of a resident log in order to assist with ascertaining residents’ whereabouts; and
  10. Implementation of random and routine checks for contraband in the residents’ rooms.

City Walk’s legal representation at the First Liberty Institute released a statement on the decision.

“Today’s order is a win for City Walk’s right to live out its faith and fulfill its calling to care for the city’s most vulnerable. It’s also a win for the City of Tallahassee, which needs selfless partners like City Walk to help solve its homelessness crisis. We remain hopeful that in considering the ALJ’s thorough and neutral recommendation, the Tallahassee City Planning Commission will do the right thing and abide by the ALJ’s ruling.”

Jordan Pratt, Senior Counsel at First Liberty Institute

City Walk Director and Pastor Renee Miller also released a statement.

“We serve a mighty God who gets all credit for victory as all battles belong to Him. We are and have been operating with all but one of conditions set forth by the judge since February of this year. We are grateful to be able to concentrate on providing services to our community without fighting for the right to do so.”

Renee Miller, City Walk Urban Mission Pastor and Director

In an email to City Commissioners and City Manager Reese Goad informing them of the decision, City Attorney Cassandra Jackson wrote: “This recommendation will appear on the Planning Commission’s agenda for consideration and a final decision as to whether it agrees with the conclusions of law of the hearing officer.”

The Planning Commission’s next meeting is scheduled for January.

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