April 25, 2018 10:39 PM
First Lutheran Church filed a federal lawsuit against the City of St. Paul earlier this month after the city notified the church it would start enforcing zoning ordinances because a drop-in daycare homeless center had generated neighborhood complaints.
The church, located at 463 Maria Avenue, claims enforcement of the zoning codes is a violation of federal law and infringes on the church's rights to practice its religious mission.
Sources told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS that the St. Paul City Attorney's Office, in a closed meeting Wednesday, told the City Council that the Listening House homeless daycare center is leasing space at First Lutheran Church.
And therefore the city is within its legal rights to enforce zoning laws on it as business, not as a church.
Sources also said the City Council instructed the City Attorney's Office to continue talking with the church and Listening House in order to reach a settlement good for all parties involved.
The city imposed the zoning restrictions a few months after Listening House moved into First Lutheran Church, near Swede Hollow, in June, 2017.
Neighborhood complaints were filed with the city claiming some clients of Listening House were urinating in the street, fighting outside the church and that hypodermic needles had been found in the street on multiple occasions, creating a safety risk for neighborhood children.
Krist Nelson told KSTP she has lived near First Lutheran Church for 19 years, and the criminal activity spiked after Listening House moved into the church.
"We support the church's mission, and we understand that homeless people with mental health issues need help," Nelson said. "But there has been a serious increase of bad behavior from people coming there, including some drug activity, and children should be able to feel safe here. No one should have to scan the street for needles before they walk around the block."
First Lutheran Church and Listening House did not wish to comment because of the litigation - other than to say they are encouraged that the City Council and City Attorney were talking about options and are still willing to negotiate.
The City of St. Paul also does not comment on pending litigation.
Updated: April 25, 2018 10:39 PM
Created: April 25, 2018 10:03 PM
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