City-county planning commission votes to deny City Walk permit request

After hours of deliberation, the city-county planning commission voted Wednesday to deny a local homeless shelter’s permit request.
Published: Jan. 12, 2022 at 8:36 PM EST
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) - After hours of deliberation, the city-county planning commission voted Wednesday to deny a local homeless shelter’s permit request.

That shelter, City Walk Urban Mission, has been a subject of controversy ever since it opened about a year ago.

Nearly two dozen communities spoke at Wednesday’s meeting, all in opposition to City Walk.

“Why in the world would you issue a permit to any organization that creates a nuisance in the neighborhood?” said Virginia Satterfield, a nearby resident.

Community members who spoke say shelter residents have caused problems in the neighborhood by trespassing, panhandling and publicly urinating.

“You’re allowing these people to come into an established neighborhood that people have been paying taxes for 30, 40, 50 years, raising families and it is disrupting the entire integrity of this neighborhood,” added resident Brian Webb.

Gary Edinger, City Walk’s attorney, argued the shelter was only created to meet a need to house the homeless in the community.

“Tallahassee was experiencing a crisis of homelessness and that homelessness spike occur during the coldest months of the year,” Edinger said. “And so there was an urgent need and City Walk responded to it.”

The commission’s decision rejects an earlier ruling by the Department of Administrative Hearings which recommends that City Walk’s permit be approved.

The DOAH laid out several conditions for approval, including bans on panhandling or loitering. But Louis Norvell, the attorney for the City of Tallahassee, said those rules weren’t enforceable.

“You got an organization that’s been operating without a permit for a year. So even if these rules worked, the city doesn’t have any way to enforce these rules,” Norvell said. “The city won’t be inspecting the facility. It didn’t have a right to enter without permission and no government entity will be inspecting the facility.”

The meeting began at 9 a.m. and adjourned shortly before 7 p.m., with commissioners voting 3-2 in favor of denying City Walk’s permit.

Jordan Pratt, a lawyer from First Liberty Institute representing City Walk, released the following statement after the decision:

“It is extremely disappointing that the commission rejected the thorough and neutral ruling of a judge and continues to ignore the law and the facts. City Walk is an important ministry that wants to partner with the city to help the homeless, and as a judge has found, it should be permitted to do so. We will continue to fight for City Walk’s right to pursue its calling.”

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