Ohio City Neighbors Appeal BZA Decision to Approve Homeless Youth Drop-In Center

Three families contest, without evidence, that the center would create crime and traffic

click to enlarge The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's building at 4100 Franklin Avenue in Ohio City has acted as a two-story office building since 2009. - Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry
The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry's building at 4100 Franklin Avenue in Ohio City has acted as a two-story office building since 2009.

Asserting that the proposed homeless youth drop-in center on Franklin Blvd. would increase traffic, noise and crime, seven Ohio City residents have filed an appeal against the Board of Zoning Appeals, which approved the project last month.

Three families in close proximity to 4100 Franklin, where Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry is aiming to build its center, filed in Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Court on March 16th, assembling a laundry list of concerns previously lobbed by the vocal minority of those in the neighborhood who oppose the project.

The appellants, described as "property owners on Franklin Blvd. in between West 38th St. and West 44th St.," include former Cleveland housing court judge Ronald Leary, Dolores Garcia, Brian Rockas, Connie and Jeff Homes, and Robert and Celine Shenk. Besides "quality of life" concerns, the appellants' claim their children would be in danger.

"The neighbors [object] to the BZA granting the variance because of the increased noise, traffic and crime that the Shelter will bring to the residential block," the complaint reads. "The increased criminal activity that is likely to accompany the Shelter will substantially harm appellants and others near the property."

The residents, spearheaded by Ronald O'Leary, who during a February BZA hearing said, "We think this is a good program, but it's not the right location," cited a study that sourced data from similar programs and claimed that 75 percent of drop-in center users are substance abusers and that 33 percent are involved in prostitution.

The study in no way claims anyone is using drugs or engaging in sex work at drop-in centers.

Representatives from Lutheran noted in February there was no evidence to suggest the center — which would only be open during the day and provide a place for people to wash clothes, catch some daily rest, charge their phones, take a shower or get access to resources — would increase noise or traffic.

Lawyers for Lutheran filed a complaint of their own against the Board of Zoning Appeals on March 15th, arguing that a zoning variance for the project wasn't necessary in the first place.

The center, which could start its conversion this year but which will likely face delays in court, will be geared to youth aged 18 to 24.

Nearly 180 Ohio City residents have signed or written letters in full support of the project.

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About The Author

Mark Oprea

Mark Oprea is a staff writer at Scene. For the past seven years, he's covered Cleveland as a freelance journalist, and has contributed to TIME, NPR, the Pacific Standard and the Cleveland Magazine. He's the winner of two Press Club awards.
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