Lexington board did not violate law in hearing about homeless shelter, judge rules

gkocher1@herald-leader.comSeptember 27, 2013 

Ginny Ramsey, director of the Community Inn, a homeless shelter on Winchester Road, wants a centralized location for those in need and those offering services.

MATT GOINS — ©2012 Herald-Leader Buy Photo

The Lexington-Fayette County Urban County Board of Adjustment did not violate the state Open Meetings Act during a June 2012 meeting about a homeless shelter on Winchester Road, a judge ruled this week.

At issue is whether members of the Board of Adjustment violated the act by conferring with one another and legal counsel during a recess of the June 8, 2012, hearing, when a conditional-use permit allowing The Community Inn to operate a church at 824 Winchester Road was revoked.

Had Fayette Circuit Judge Pamela Goodwine ruled that the Board of Adjustment acted improperly, the board's decision to revoke The Community Inn's conditional-use permit could have been invalidated. But Goodwine's order found that the board did not violate the act.

Ed Dove, attorney for Emmanuel Apostolic Church and the Catholic Action Center, which brought the suit against the Board of Adjustment, was not available for comment Friday afternoon.

Ginny Ramsey, director of The Community Inn and co-founder of the Catholic Action Center, had no comment on the ruling. "All our efforts are simply to serve the people in need," Ramsey said.

Susan Straub, spokeswomen for the Lexington Mayor Jim Gray, also had no comment.

In the lawsuit filed in July, Emmanuel Apostolic Church and the Catholic Action Center said the Urban County Government violated their constitutional rights to freedom of religion by revoking a permit for The Community Inn.

The Inn's organizers seek a court order requiring the city to reinstate a conditional-use permit for the shelter, an outreach ministry of Emmanuel Apostolic Church of Zion, according to the lawsuit.

The Inn's supporters say it is protected under freedom of religion and fair-housing laws. City officials sought to relocate the shelter in the wake of reports from neighbors about homeless people loitering, panhandling and urinating in public.

City officials and members of the Board of Adjustment have said that during the permitting process they were not fully made aware of the Inn's function as a shelter. They have said they thought the Community Inn was going to function as a typical church, with two services on Sunday and special programming on Thursday.

Instead, the building houses as many as 75 men and women from 7 p.m. to 8 a.m. seven nights a week, providing basic needs including beds and showers.

In the same order filed Thursday, Goodwine more than hinted at how she might rule on the lawsuit as a whole.

Goodwine wrote that "there is no dispute" that the church is operating a homeless shelter, "which is a clear violation of the B-4 zoning restriction."

Greg Kocher: (859) 231-3305. Twitter: @HLpublicsafety

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