FISH application denied by planning commission
A special use permit application for Friends in Service Helping to open a dining room in the Gardnerville Ranchos was denied on Tuesday by Douglas planning commissioners.
The charity wants to convert the Great Life Church at 921 Mitch Drive into a community center that offers counseling and a dining facility.
FISH Executive Director Jim Peckham explained that the service is designed for Ranchos residents and that it would not serve as a homeless shelter. He also said the tentative hours for dining would be 4-6 p.m.
County Planning Manager Hope Sullivan said the counseling office would go forward regardless of the outcome of the vote. The staff’s recommendation, however, was to deny the special use permit.
“At the end of the day, I think it’s too intensive, we’re going to have traffic conflicts and I cannot make the findings,” she said.
Commission Vice-Chairman Kevin Servatius supported the staff recommendation.
“I believe, based on the inability to make the required findings as outlined in the staff report, that the recommendation of the staff to deny this request is appropriate,” he said.
Gardnerville Ranchos General Improvement District Manager Bob Spellberg said FISH has appeared before the district’s board of trustees twice since December.
“I don’t think anybody disagrees that it’s an excellent program. The whole crux to the matter, is this the right location for that program?” Spellberg said, adding that his belief that parking would be a potential problem.
A number of neighbors opposed the application due to concerns over traffic, among other things.
“I’ve been here 23 years, and it’s a beautiful little neighborhood,” Sabrina Ross said. “I think if this was to happen we would lose that quietness because of the traffic that would come in. And the homeless people they say won’t come by, I believe they will because where the food is or where the free stuff is, that is where they tend to go to. It’s just not a good area. I think everything they’re doing is amazing, just please do it somewhere else.”
Reverend Jim Beilstein of Trinity Lutheran Church in Gardnerville and FISH board member, said the organization has operated in Carson City for 50 years and now believes there is a need in the Ranchos.
“I live within two miles of this facility, and I have many members who are located in the Ranchos,” he said. “That is a very needy area and I pray somehow we can come to a meeting of the minds.”
Commissioner Jo Etta Brown said she believes the location is not appropriate for the proposed project.
“I believe as commissioners, we need to look at programs and opportunities to enhance the quality of our life of all our citizens,” she said. “I have worked with other groups that have delivered services to homelessness and we need to realize that a large percentage of our homeless population is veterans returning from service and also women and children.”
Minden resident Lin Larson supported FISH on behalf of the Douglas County Backpack Buddies program.
“When Backpack Buddies started seven years ago, we were told there was no need in our community for this,” she said. “Seven years later, we served 487 children last year and an average of 320 backpacks every weekend during the school year.”
Peckham said he will meet with FISH board members to determine a course of action.
“I was very pleased that just about everybody that spoke was very complimentary of the services we provide and there seemed to be agreement that there is a need for services in the Ranchos,” Peckham said.
“To me, those are real big positives and it’s just a matter of trying to work out issues on the location. We’ve got to jointly come up with a decision to figure out how to move forward.”