Published: Jun 07, 2012 10:49 AM
Modified: Jun 07, 2012 10:50 AM
After withholding all drafts from the public, IFC has finally published its final neighbor plan for the 17-bed emergency and 52-bed transitional shelter at MLK and Homestead.
Homestead Park Area Neighbors raised concerns that should have been addressed during the SUP and Shelter Guidelines processes but were deferred by the Chapel Hill Town Council. Neighbors hoped that substantive issues like drop-ins and identification would finally be addressed in the neighbor plan and the lease. Neighbors were hoping to gain a level of confidence that contingencies and consequences would be well-defined if negative impacts occurred.
A neighbor asked in one of the meetings: “What if, despite everyone’s best intentions, things do not go as planned during this 60 year lease?”
Unfortunately, neighbor hopes for the “Good Neighbor Plan” process have not been realized.
Neighbors asked that standard dispute settlement processes be used to create a mutually agreed Neighbor Plan. IFC hired the Dispute Settlement Center in Carrboro, but the center was hired only as a meeting facilitator and not to provide true dispute resolution services to the community and the IFC.
Additionally, despite neighbor requests, IFC chose not to follow N.C. Open Meeting Law principles. As a result, no undisputed record of the meetings exists because no recordings were allowed.
The committee members never got to vote on the plan and never even saw the final version until after it was given to the town, weeks after the IFC board approved it. Concealed processes like this breed distrust, particularly when neighbors objected to these process problems beforehand.
IFC owned and controlled the document during the Neighbor Plan meetings and at its sole discretion decided on every single change to the document. IFC omitted the most important of the neighbor concerns, concerns that the neighbors have raised repeatedly in dozens of public meetings.
Here are some of the top concerns from neighbors:
• Drop-In Shelter: IFC stated in its information material and in the public hearings that it would not allow drop-in emergency shelter clients. However, the document outlines procedures to allow seekers of emergency shelter to drop in. Town Council members clearly stated they were approving the SUP because drop-ins would NOT be allowed. Unfortunately, however, IFC kept loopholes which allow them to renege on the drop-in policy even after neighbors objected.
• Photo ID: Government issued photo ID is not required for emergency clients. Though this may be IFC’s prior operating model while downtown, not requiring government-issued ID is unacceptable for a site is adjacent to 200 preschoolers and Homestead Park. Had the site been more carefully selected, stringent ID requirements might not be required. Moreover, a more carefully selected site could have served sex offenders who are now left without services. The sex offender prohibition is not enforceable without positive identification.
• Operational Issues: There are no consequences for failed operational procedures. If IFC fails to ID clients, transport shelter guests, run background checks, adhere to occupancy limits, or defaults on any other operational procedures required in the neighbor plan, there are no consequences. The neighbor plan assumes IFC will operate perfectly for 60 years.
• No Enduring Plan: Perhaps the most ludicrous part of this whole process is that the town council must approve the first version of this plan, but IFC can gut the plan the very next day, on its own, without going to the Town Council. Neighbors have asked repeatedly for a better amendment process.
We kindly ask community members who support the IFC and this plan to consider the very real issues that could occur for neighborhoods near the proposed shelter. IFC continues to ignore and gloss over the real issues raised by neighbors while it advocates for support of the plan through churches.
The town council should require IFC to fix the ongoing issues that neighbors present June 11 and put strong provisions in the 60-year lease that gives them the tools to mitigate any possible future impacts and problems. We all hope for success, but we must plan for 60 years.Mark Peters, Tina CoyneSmith, and Jason Kirk live near the proposed facility and served on the neighbor plan committee.
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