Lexington's planning commission unanimously approved changes Thursday to a 2013 day-shelter ordinance that housing advocates had said discriminated against the poor and the homeless.
The 2013 zoning change restricted where day services for the homeless may be located. The ordinance required anyone serving the homeless or the poor during daylight hours to receive special permission — a conditional-use permit — from the city.
The planning commission on Thursday voted on a change to the ordinance that would make it possible for a day shelter for the homeless to be within seven of the city's business zones without getting special permission from the city. A day shelter would need a conditional-use permit — which would have to be approved by the city's Board of Adjustment — if it wanted to locate in a residential area or light industrial zone.
The change now must to go to the Urban County Council for final approval. The change originated with the council and is expected to pass when it comes up for a final vote.
There was no discussion before the commission voted Thursday.
Housing advocates and those who serve the poor allege the October 2013 ordinance is discriminatory and in violation of federal housing laws that prohibit discrimination.
Organizations that serve the rich would not need a special permit to operate, but those that serve the poor and homeless during daylight hours would, they argued.
Since the ordinance was approved, no new day shelters for the homeless have opened.
That ordinance and other issues involving the location of Community Inn, an overnight homeless center on Winchester Road, were part of a complaint filed by the Lexington Fair Housing Council and others against the city.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development investigated the complaint before turning it over to the U.S. Department of Justice for review.
That review is ongoing. It's not clear what type of sanctions or fines the city could face if the Department of Justice decides the city violated federal fair housing laws.