Despite last month’s decision by the Municipal Planning Board, the relocation of Orlando Union Rescue Mission’s homeless shelter is not a done deal yet. An official appeal has been filed against two items approved by the Orlando MPB on December 15th which rezone the proposed Parramore location and allow the development of a 32,101 sq. ft. homeless facility with on-site temporary housing.
The appeal requests an independent hearing on the decision, further delaying the process. Philip Cowherd, a longtime Parramore business owner, filed the appeal as an adversely affected person to the MPB decision. An “adversely affected person” is a person who will suffer a negative effect to a protected interest as a result of the action. This will be the second independent quasi-judicial hearing against attempted policy changes by Buddy Dyer’s administration. Dr. Wanda Jones and other city residents are also fighting a City Hall attack on the Wekiva River Basin and surrounding wetlands using the same appeal process.
The zoning change was needed because of the City of Orlando’s own policy. “The City of Orlando has determined that the over-concentration of social service uses in the Parramore Heritage Renovation Area has had a negative impact on the area’s stability and prosperity,” the Future Land Use Element of the City’s Growth Management Plan states in Policy S.6.9. “In order to protect existing residential areas, encourage reinvestment and promote the fair distribution of social service uses throughout the region, the City’s Land Development Code shall include provisions to appropriately limit or prohibit the establishment, expansion, and relocation of such uses within Subarea 6.”
“Emergency Shelters, Treatment & Recovery Facilities, Residential Social Service Facilities and Social Service Uses shall not be established, expanded or relocated with the Parramore Heritage Renovation Area,” the City of Orlando policy states.
That’s right, the city’s own policy does not allow the proposed move. But the OURM relocation is being pushed by Mayor Dyer in order to pave way for the Orlando Magic’s proposed entertainment complex next to the Amway Center, a deal struck almost three years ago. In 2013, Dyer made a sweetheart deal with the Magic for the entertainment complex, but the OURM homeless shelter was still in the way.
Don’t feel too bad for OURM. They chose to sell their downtown land to the Orlando Magic for $3 million at the time.
OURM originally planned to build their new shelter on Old Winter Garden Road in Orange County. In March, residents pushed back against the plan so forcefully, the Orange County Board of Zoning Adjustment voted against OURM’s plan. “The residents in this community are sick and tired of being the dumping ground for everything that depicts negativity in the black community,” said Cynthia Harris, who spoke out against the relocation and organized residents.
Orange County rejected the relocation proposal for the homeless shelter due to community opposition. That left Dyer scrambling to fix his crumbling plan. Parramore became the default backup plan, despite the city policy.
There was more public outcry at the September Municipal Planning Board meeting, with about 20 people speaking out against OURM’s proposal. “It seems like we are the ones that you’re dumping on,” Cheryl Smith, a Parramore homeowner, told the planning board. “I am just tired of this.”
“They need to relocate it to another community because we’re inundated with too many programs at this point,” Lynn Nicholson, owns a town home less than half a mile from the current shelter location, told WMFE.
“On the east side…west side—anywhere but down on Parramore,” longtime resident Dorothy Gray told WMFE. “We have homeowners, we have children coming through there. “They’re already tearing down a whole lot of construction around us. They don’t want them down there, so why should we want them in our neighborhood?”
The MPB ended up deferring any decisions during the September meeting in another win for the community and another stumbling block for Dyer’s plan. Even one board member had to admit the residents and business owners made their point. “It’s hard to argue with what we heard from all of these neighbors about what the potential impacts of this could be,” board member Jennifer Tobin said in September.
“We have that ordinance in place for a reason. Anywhere else but Parramore,” Lawanna Gelzer, a Parramore homeowner and business owner, told WESH News in December. “Look at our community. It’s not because we are not homeowners and don’t care. You are driving us out! Our property value goes down, our businesses are driven out. I’ve been a business owner for 37 years and there are very few of us left.”
Last month, despite strong public opposition and the city’s own policy, the MPB changed course yet again and approved two needed changes to allow the homeless shelter development in Parramore. Cowherd was ready to file his appeal after the MPB decision.
Lourdes Diaz, the Municipal Planning Board Recording Secretary, notified City Clerk Celeste Brown and other top city staffers about the appeal in a December 21st memo. The latest Parramore controversy goes on.