Fourth Ward Alderman Ray Ambrose has company from at least one other member of the Davenport City Council regarding concerns about Timothy's House of Hope.
In an email to the City Council and various city staff, Alderman Jason Gordon, at-large, asked for the city to hold off allowing Timothy's House of Hope to reopen Monday "pending further and specific direction from the Mayor and Council on how best to proceed."
Gordon said although the issue became "hyper-politicized" after Ambrose made comments about the ministry and its clientele that were deemed insensitive, the process could have ramifications in the future depending on how the city handles and responds to this specific issue.
Timothy's House of Hope, a ministry within Compassion Church, was issued a cease-and-desist order on April 19 after its food service at its new 1602 Washington St. facility was found not to be compliant with the acceptable uses of its current C-2, General Commercial District, zoning.
During a management update meeting on May 2, a majority of the council expressed the desire for staff to change the scope of the Planned Institutional District–Housing and Supporting Services zoning law.
The change would permit limited meal service to resume.
Because of the intent to amend the zoning ordinance, City Attorney Tom Warner said "there is no real justice in enforcing a zoning law that will soon be changed."
As to reopening on Monday, Gordon sought assurances that Timothy's House of Hope needed to comply with fire and life safety requirements as was the case when other nonprofits have approached the city.
"Some of my colleagues will recall when King's Harvest wanted to expand their shelter services, Fire informed them they would need to install a sprinkle system for fire suppression purposes," Gordon wrote. "A few of their supporters approached council about waiving that requirement and the council was quite firm in stating life/safety issues are critical and were not any less worthy of merit in a temporary shelter or a luxury hotel. I believe the same principles should apply here."
City Administrator Corri Spiegel provided an update to all members of City Council and city staff in a separate email chain Thursday afternoon.
"The inspection did note minor code items that are more customary and do not normally necessitate closure of the facility," Spiegel wrote. "The property owner received verbal notification of the items during the inspection and will be receiving written confirmation of those items shortly. During the inspection, it was noted that some improvements were underway, and they were instructed to discontinue work until the appropriate permits have been obtained."
Spiegel said the topic would reappear on the agenda for next Tuesday's council-management update meeting.
Gordon, who is not opposed to the House of Hope location on Washington Street, said he was willing to assist in helping the facility secure the appropriate zoning through the current code, but he also warned of changing the code in order to bring it into compliance.
"I obviously can't promise a favorable outcome, but nonetheless, was willing to try and assist," Gordon said. "I do feel strongly that changing the comprehensive PID ordinance to essentially bring them into compliance is tantamount to a type or form of spot zoning, as we are changing code to accommodate the needs of one entity."
Gordon drew on personal experience involving his wife, who was director of Rick's House of Hope, an organization that helped grieving and traumatized youth.
"Early in her time at Rick's, the Board purchased a new property on (Northwest Boulevard) in Davenport," Gordon wrote. "Multiple compliance issues had to met — a special use permit from (the Zoning Board of Adjustment), notices sent to neighbors about the special use permit request, a variance to place a sign in the (right of way) so clients could more easily identify the location, and so on."
While he acknowledged the protections churches and religious organizations have under city, state and federal code, Gordon also said that applicable rules need to be followed.
During a May 2 management meeting, the council also requested that staff organize a neighborhood meeting about the issue.
At Wednesday's City Council meeting, Warner said staff still was trying to set that up after Ambrose and residents and business owners on Washington Street inquired.
Gordon said information he received from Spiegel about the challenges of scheduling a meeting and Timothy's House of Hope not committing to a date was troubling.
In her update Thursday afternoon, Spiegel said staff has continued to reach out to both sides, but a meeting has yet to be coordinated.
Mike Meloy, the attorney for Pastor Jim Swope and Compassion Church, challenged any assertion that his clients would not be willing to meet.
Meloy said Swope spoke at length and answered questions about occupancy and use at the Washington Street Business Association's April 11 meeting and both Swope and Cantwell spoke with business owners after the City Council's May 3 committee-of-the-whole meeting.
"We're willing to meet if they wish to do so," Meloy said. "The idea that we haven't met with them is factually untrue."