Planning Commission Approves Homeless Shelter Zoning

The Louisville Planning Commission has approved zoning guidelines for homeless shelters.

The regulations address a gap in zoning laws that neither prohibited nor allowed a shelter to be built downtown. The regulations define zoning for three types of buildings that serve the homeless, and would allow shelters downtown.

The commission heard from more than a dozen people who spoke in favor of the zoning changes. A minority of speakers, however, said there should be regulations that prohibit the size and density of shelters.

Dawn Warrick with Planning and Design Services says existing codes will keep density down, and it’s unlikely her agency will try to pass any legislation that applies only to the homeless…though similar laws exist in other cities.

“Certainly there are probably schemes by which they can do that legally,” she says. “It’s something our task force did not ask us to pursue further because they felt comfortable with the recommendation they had developed.”

The change in zoning laws now goes to the Metro Council and other legislative bodies for final approval. The zoning changes mean Wayside Christian Mission’s proposed homeless shelter at the Hotel Louisville downtown is one step closer to being legal. Wayside has been operating the building as a hotel, offering steep discounts on rooms for the homeless. Director Nina Moseley says while she’s happy with the zoning law changes, the hotel operation has advantages over a shelter.

“Operating the hotel is paying for our utilities which is the big thing for us,” she says. “And the interface with people; people can come in and rent a room in the hotel or have a wedding reception in the hotel and be served by our folks who are homeless.”

Planning and Design Services is currently working on follow-up legislation that would set clear inspection and licensing guidelines for shelters to operate under. Moseley says the drafts of the plan are too strict, and go beyond the fire and health inspections shelters are already subject to.