A Lexington day shelter and a controversial night shelter for the homeless might move to a building on Industry Road as part of a settlement with the city.
If approved by the Urban County Council in coming weeks, the agreement would end more than three years of litigation between the city and The Community Inn and could end a federal investigation into alleged fair housing violations by the city. The earliest council could vote on the ordinance is Sept. 10.
As part of the agreement, the city will transfer ownership of a city-owned building at 1055 Industry Road — formerly the mayor's training center — to Divine Providence, which oversees The Community Inn, a night shelter, and the Catholic Action Center, a day shelter.
Divine Providence will give the city $550,000 for the Industry Road building and will also transfer ownership of Catholic Action Center on Fifth Street to the city. The Community Inn and the Catholic Action Center will move into the building on Industry Road as part of the agreement.
Divine Providence applauded the decision in a written statement late Thursday.
"Divine Providence Inc. is pleased with the opportunity to have a combined day and night shelter facility," the statement said. "We feel this will serve our guests who are experiencing homelessness with safety and dignity. The winter of 2014-2015 demonstrated the critical need for one location for our vulnerable brothers and sisters."
The agreement was announced at a Thursday council meeting. The council met behind closed doors for more than an hour to discuss the settlement. The agreement received its first reading Thursday. Four council members voted against the first reading: Bill Farmer Jr., Jennifer Scutchfield, Kevin Stinnett and Angela Evans.
The Lexington Fair Housing Council, a nonprofit group, filed a complaint with the U.S. Housing and Urban Development in September 2012 after a conditional-use permit for The Community Inn on Winchester Road was revoked by the Board of Adjustment.
The city revoked the permit because a church had applied for the permit but did not say that they were going to open a homeless shelter. The Community Inn countered that the shelter was part of its church mission.
The complaint alleges that because so many homeless people are minorities and are protected under the federal fair-housing laws, the revocation of the permit violated federal law.
HUD later amended that complaint to include the city's passage of a day-shelter ordinance in October 2013. The ordinance requires a special permit for any organization operating during daylight hours if it serves people with "limited financial resources, including people who are homeless."
Homeless advocates say that requiring additional zoning for organizations that serve the homeless violates the federal Fair Housing Act.
The council later changed the ordinance so it would allow day shelters in most business zones without special permission. The building on Industry Road is appropriately zoned for a day and night shelter.
In March, HUD turned the investigation over to the U.S. Department of Justice. If the agreement between housing advocates, the city and Divine Providence is approved by the council, fair housing will ask the Department of Justice to drop its investigation, said Art Crosby, director of the Lexington Fair Housing Council.
Also, the city and Divine Providence have been in litigation over the revocation of The Community Inn's conditional-use permit. If the agreement is approved, those court cases would be dropped. The Community Inn has continued to operate at Winchester Road during the federal investigation and the court fight.