Ohio City residents file to block drop-in center for youth who are homeless
A group of concerned neighbors on Franklin Avenue in Ohio City last week filed an appeal in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court against the Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals (BZA), attempting to nullify two variances granted last month that would allow a drop-in center for young people who are homeless to move forward on their block.
Meanwhile, Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, which would operate the drop-in center, similarly filed an appeal of a related Board of Zoning Appeals decision one day earlier, seeking to contest that it ever needed a variance in the first place. These legal disputes will likely delay the opening of the drop-in center.
The Board of Zoning Appeals previously granted two variances from city zoning code to Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry in February, over the opposition of some of its immediate neighbors. Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry at the time tried to argue that it did not need to get a variance from city zoning code in the first place because it already owns the building and was not technically changing the charitable use of the building.
The drop-in center would provide unhoused young people ages 16-24 with showers, clothes and other basic necessities. Support staff would also be available to help the young clients through challenges they're facing on the path to goals like a job or housing stability. The group of concerned neighbors have said they're not opposed to that mission; they just don't want the center on their street. They say they're worried the project will lead to an increase in crime and harm the residential character of the neighborhood with noise and litter.
One of the concerned neighbors who filed the suit, former Cleveland Housing Court Judge Ron O'Leary, did not immediately respond to a request for comment sent Monday, nor did the Cleveland Board of Zoning Appeals.
Maria Foschia, president and CEO of Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry, said in a statement Monday that her organization hopes to begin construction as soon as possible on the site, and believes any delay due to the court filings will "only be temporary."
"On behalf of the project partners, we are disappointed, but not discouraged, that the neighbors have taken this step despite a unanimous, favorable Board of Zoning Appeals variance ruling, as well as a strong show of support from the residents of Ohio City as demonstrated by their approval vote at the Franklin Clinton Block Club meeting on January 26," Foschia wrote.
The neighbors in their appeal argued the Board's decision wasn't based on the law.
"This appeal challenges questions of law and questions of fact related to the BZA’s granting the variance," the document reads. "The BZA’s decision to grant the variance is unconstitutional, illegal, arbitrary, capricious, unreasonable, or unsupported by the preponderance of substantial, reliable, and probative evidence on the whole record."
The drop-in center would be the first of its kind in Cleveland, joining other major Ohio cities.