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Allender vetoes City Council's decision on E. North Street mission site
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Allender vetoes City Council's decision on E. North Street mission site

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Mayor Steve Allender has vetoed the Rapid City Council's approval earlier this month of a conditional use permit for a rescue mission facility on E. North Street.

On June 15, the City Council voted 5-4 to approve an appeal from RV Ministries to use a building at 112 E. North Street as a mission. The appeal was brought to the full City Council after the Planning Commission unanimously denied the conditional use permit.

Last week, the mayor sent a three-page letter to Council members and the city's finance officer notifying them of his decision. The veto is the second veto issued by Allender during his mayoral tenure.

In the letter, Allender said the group, RV Ministries, was illegally operating the mission out of a building at 112 E. North Street. The building was purchased by former RV Ministries President Cathie Harris under a corporate entity of James 2 LLC. Harris said she gifted the building to RV Ministries and then resigned as president of the group.

On April 20, the city's Code Enforcement department became aware that RV Ministries was operating the mission without the proper conditional use permit. RV Ministries submitted the paperwork for the permit on April 24.

However, Allender said in his letter that city planner Vicki Fisher became concerned about the paperwork submitted.

"During this time, Community Development could not be sure they were receiving truthful information from Mrs. Harris," Allender wrote. "They received conflicting information from her, about the ownership, about the level of community support among other things. Cathie Harris soon resigned as president of RV Ministries."

Allender said Tuesday he was concerned about pedestrian safety, a nearby railroad crossing and the adverse impact the location has for the vulnerable population the mission serves.

"Since we are dealing with a population for the mission that will not have the ability to drive, we have to look at the pedestrian traffic along the sidewalks and, if we're honest, they would also use the railroad tracks to avoid the sidewalk," Allender told the Journal. "This is overall a high risk. There's that side of it and there is also the risk to the customers."

Allender said he does understand and appreciate the group's mission.

"It's one thing to have a heart. Nobody faults them for having a big heart, but there has to be critical thinking here in order to protect the people that you're trying to serve," he said.

Allender said the June 15 City Council meeting was disjointed and confusing and the petitioners, RV Ministries, were emotional about their mission. Allender said RV Ministries changed its operating plan verbally during the meeting and it contradicts with the written plan submitted to the city.

The mayor said he thinks the emotion involved may have clouded the City Council's action.

"In the end, I don't believe the Council understood what they were approving, or what the conditions ended up being because the conditions in their (RV Ministries) written plan were different than the conditions they spoke of at the public meeting," Allender said. "The record is unclear, and overall it's a mistake. I feel as though the city through this whole process was, and is, being manipulated to approving something that is — on the surface, in the best interest of the homeless, but in reality something that puts the homeless at further risk."

The veto action will be considered by the City Council at its meeting on July 6. Six votes among the Council's nine members would be needed to override the mayor's veto.

Allender's first veto was issued in September 2017 when he vetoed a line item in the Retired Senior Volunteer Program's (RSVP) budget in the 2018 City budget. The City Council had approved spending $40,000 in General Fund undesignated cash to fund the RSVP program. The Council voted 7-3 to override the mayor's veto.

Contact Assistant Managing Editor Nathan Thompson at nathan.thompson@rapidcityjournal.com.

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