UPDATE: Rescue Mission to close after special-use permit denied

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - UPDATE 11:05AM 06/09/10 - The East Texas Rescue Mission will be closing its doors after being denied a special-use permit.

The City of Tyler made the decision Wednesday morning after hearing from those on both sides of the controversial issue. Some neighbors who live near the Mission say crime has increased. But, others argued it is needed to house the homeless and provide food and shelter.

Last fall, the Rescue Mission expanded the outside of their building and made renovations inside. The City of Tyler says the Mission did not get permission from the Planning and Zoning Commission, and they did not have building permits.

By Sara Story - bio | email
Posted by Ellen Krafve - bio | email

TYLER, TX (KLTV) - It houses the homeless and helps needy men in Tyler and Smith County. But, the East Texas Rescue Mission is under scrutiny, following an expansion that does not meet city zoning laws. The Mission is now relying on the Tyler City Council to grant them a special-use permit to continue operating.

The East Texas Rescue Mission turned a loading dock into a room that sleeps 48 men. But, the city of Tyler says the add-on does not meet city codes.

"This is an unusual case," said Barbara Holly, the director of planning for Tyler. "You have a very worthwhile mission that a lot of people feel strongly that they have a Biblical need to help that we are very supportive of. It is just the manner in which the actions were done."

Holly says the Rescue Mission made external and internal changes without permission from the Planning and Zoning Commission and without building permits.

"I want to do everything 100% to correct it," said Tony Chung, director of the Rescue Mission.

Chung is now asking the city council for a special use permit to allow him to keep the doors open.

"There's no reason why a man should be out there without food," said Chung. "They eat as much as they want. They have a warm place to say."

But, even if he promises to fix the violations, community opinions could play a part in the city council's decision.

"I've heard some of my neighbors, the women, say, 'I can't walk anymore. I need to walk, but I can't walk because I'm afraid,'" said Mary Teel, a business owner. "They say, 'I don't let my kids play outside anymore because I have a fear for them.'"

"Sometimes when you live in a neighborhood, you can be resistant to change," said Jim Smith, a neighbor. "But then I got to thinking about it and thought, 'Well, if they aren't here, where can they go?'"

"Right now, he has 40% protest from his neighbors, and that is very significant," said Holly.

With that much protest, Holly says six out of seven council members must approve the permit. It is a tough hurdle for the Mission and its residents.

The Tyler City Council will meet Wednesday morning at 9 a.m. The meeting will be open to the public and a decision on the special-use permit is expected to be made.

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