The Tallahassee-Leon County Planning Commission met on January 12th for a public hearing related to the second application for City Walk- Urban Mission, Inc. to operate as a Transitional Residential Facility.
The permit was denied in a 3-2 vote.
City Walk is located at 1709 Mahan Drive in Tallahassee and, for the last year, has become a point of contention for residents in the area and at city meetings.
The denial of the permit means City Walk is operating out of compliance with city codes.
“It is extremely disappointing that the commission rejected the thorough and neutral ruling of a judge and continues to ignore the law and the facts,” said Senior Attorney Jordan Pratt, who is representing City Walk.
In March 2021, the Development Review Committee (DRC) denied the shelter a permit and issued fines for continuing operations. As a result, City Walk, who said the city was discriminating against religious institutions, then filed an appeal in the Circuit Court. Only, the judge sided with the city and upheld the fines.
Then in November 2021, the case went before Florida Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) G.W. Chisenhall, who ruled that the city should allow the shelter to operate with stipulations. Judge Chisenhall listed ten conditions for the shelter’s approval, for example, maintaining security including camera surveillance and no acceptance of anyone convicted of a sex-related offense.
“The purported ‘rules’ referenced by the ALJ and the proposed ‘conditions’ provide no protection from the negative effects of the shelter,” the city responded in a court document to the conditions set by Judge Chisenhall.
There were 14 public speakers during the Planning Commission meeting on Wednesday, January 12th, and all 14 business owners and residents spoke out against City Walk’s permit approval. They cited issues such as safety, individuals sleeping in the doorways of businesses, some defecating in private yards, and soliciting for money.
After an all-day meeting and hours of deliberation, the commission ultimately denied the permit.
According media reports, Assistant City Attorney Lou Norvell explained that the rules set by the ALJ are not enforceable by the city, “You got an organization that’s been operating without a permit for a year. So even if these rules worked, the city doesn’t have any way to enforce these rules,” Norvell said. “The city won’t be inspecting the facility. It didn’t have a right to enter without permission, and no government entity will be inspecting the facility.”
City Walk could challenge the decision in Leon County Circuit Court.
In a statement, City Walk officials said, “We respect all the effort put into today’s hearing by the planning commission. We will continue to serve God as He has called us,our clients, out church, and community as we have been. We invite the local powers to join us in a higher court.”