Lubbock's tent city could soon be a thing of the past… or at least moved to another location for a third time. Lubbock's Zoning and Planning Commission voted late Thursday, rejecting a rezoning request by the property owner of the land tent city is currently on.
Link Ministries owns the plot of land on 13th Street and Avenue A, and for the last six months they've helped Lubbock's homeless get back on their feet by allowing them to stay in tents on the property.
Recently Link Ministries was asked to request a rezoning plan that would change the plot of land from a heavy industrial zone to a special-use heavy industrial zone in order to keep allowing the makeshift shelters.
"I don't think anybody in their right mind ever thought the tent city was going to be a permanent solution for the homeless issue here in Lubbock," said City Council member Paul Beane.
On Thursday the eight member commission appointed by the City Council rejected the request in a 7 -0 vote, with one member abstaining his vote.
"It's infuriating, the fact that the city has spent six months on a homelessness committee to look at what we can do to help the homeless in Lubbock, Texas," said Les Burrus, Link Ministries executive administrator, "An organization stepped up to the plate, and we brought them out here to a private property for a faith base organization to help them. Now they want us to move them somewhere else."
Some of the reasons given for the denial of rezoning were the overwhelming opposition of businesses near the tent city. Several business owners said thefts and burglaries have gone up since the tent city moved to 13th and Avenue A.
"We were blind sided by the city's response. We were faced with a series of allegations with no chance for rebuttal," said Clifford Vanloan, a tent city resident. "I felt like the allegations were based on exaggeration and innuendoes and very little fact."
Link Ministries can appeal to the City Council, which is exactly what Link Ministries executive administrator Les Burrus says they plan to do. He says the ministries board will discuss how to go about appealing to the city.
Link Ministries will have to have at least a City Council vote of 6 to 1 in order to overturn the commission's ruling. If they do not overturn it, Link Ministries will only have a certain amount of time to remove the tents before they start getting fines by police.
"Where are we going to move to? This location is just about ideal as far as access to services, as far as transportation, everything else is conveniently located yet we are out of the way," said Vanloan. "Our whole aim is to get people removed from the street and give them a hand up, and right now we can't offer that simply because we aren't entirely legal where we are and we could be forced to close down."
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