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Planning Commission denies City Walk’s permit request to operate shelter

 Emily, a receptionist at the City Walk Church and homeless center, organizes pamphlets outside her front desk area.
Patrick Sternad
/
WFSU Public Media
Emily, a receptionist at the City Walk Church and homeless center, organizes pamphlets outside her front desk area.

In a 3-to-2 vote Wednesday the Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Commission rejected City Walk’s request for a permit to continue operating its homeless shelter on Mahan Drive. This is the second time the request has been denied, after their first attempt last March. The day-long hearing spanned ten hours and included presentations from attorneys representing both City Walk and the City of Tallahassee, as well as members of the public, who were permitted to speak for three minutes.

Many of the speakers were residents or business owners in the area surrounding 1709 Mahan Drive, where City Walk is operating the facility. The public was overwhelmingly against City Walk’s permit request. Nearby businesses and residents have complained about human waste and trash on sidewalks, trespassing and panhandling.

Brian Webb owns the building next door to City Walk, where Patients First urgent care is located. He has witnessed those issues first-hand. “Belligerent people on the property, panhandling to patients, panhandling to staff,” were among the issues Webb has noticed since City Walk began operations in late 2020. He says the Patients First staff as well as people seeking health care feel unsafe when they arrive at or leave the building.

Last year, an administrative court found City Walk should get a permit—but only under certain conditions—such as a ban on panhandling and loitering. After all public comments were heard, the planning commission debated those conditions for over four hours. When Commissioner Ian Waldick motioned for a vote to grant City Walk’s permit with the added conditions, it was not seconded. Commissioner Collins Proctor then motioned for a vote to deny the permit, it was seconded, and approved by a 3-2 vote at approximately 7:15 PM.

Renee Miller, the executive director of City Walk, provided the following statement:

“We respect all the effort put into the hearing by the planning commission. We will continue to serve God as He has called us, serve our clients, our church, and community as we have been. We invite the local powers to join us in a higher court. Our attorneys are preparing the documents for further litigation.”

The decision to deny a permit to City Walk does not mean the facility will immediately shut down. City Walk now seeks an appeal with the Leon County Circuit Court.