STL Planning Commission considers removal of petition requirements for shelters

Published: Sep. 13, 2023 at 7:28 PM CDT
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ST. LOUIS (KMOV) -- A city proposal could make it easier to establish shelters for unhoused people by removing plat and petition requirements for such facilities. But some neighborhood leaders say the proposal is an overreach.

The commission introduced two complementary proposals on its agenda Wednesday night. One of them was a series of reforms that redefine certain special uses for shelters. The proposal said current St. Louis policies, including a petition requirement from the surrounding neighborhood, made it too difficult to create new shelters.

“The City of St. Louis has determined that existing city regulations create inordinate barriers to establishing ‘Special Residential Uses’ such as shelters, transitional housing, group homes, and others,” it read.

The other proposal would remove the signatures requirement. Megan Green, the president of the Board of Aldermen, has supported the measure. In a statement to First Alert 4 she wrote, “Over the past 15 years, 0% of the plat and petitions for shelters have been successful. Only 13% of all special residential uses have succeeded in getting the requisite signatures. It’s truly a public safety issue if we can’t provide housing and services to people in need. Without reform, our most vulnerable residents will continue living on the streets without treatment.”

Some neighborhood associations across St. Louis oppose the reforms, saying they remove local control from communities.

Keith Fairchild, the president of the Boulevard Heights Neighborhood Association, called it an overreach.

“Neighborhoods should have a say in everything that goes on. That’s currently being eroded by this current board,” he said.

Larry Rice, whose New Life Evangelistic Center shelter was shut down by the city, has criticized the plat and petition process for shelters. Rice has been organizing demonstrations in front of City Hall and supporting people camping outside the building for the past several weeks.

Wednesday Rice held a press event in which some of the people camping on the property held signs criticizing the current city policy.

Rice said he was glad that the city was considering eliminating it, as he considered it a barrier to creating new shelters. However, he felt the proposed reforms were not the correct approach. Instead, he proposed the creation of a new local board to oversee shelters and housing policies in the city.

“If we had an independent board we could still have hearings, we could bring the neighborhoods in, bring the neighbors into consideration and begin to work with that neighborhood,” Rice said.