Ministry withdraws rezoning request for boardinghouse

A boarding house was proposed for the property at 5210 N. Division St., Davenport. It would have housed formerly incarcerated non-violent women.

A ministry seeking to create a faith-based boarding house for formerly incarcerated women in Davenport has withdrawn its petition for rezoning.

Women in Spiritual Hope, or WISH, Ministries notified the city of its decision to withdraw a petition for 5210 N. Division St. during this week's committee-of-the-whole meeting. The Council had previously approved two considerations of an ordinance to approve its request.

WISH Ministries had intended to purchase the duplex to create a boarding house for women who had served time in prison for nonviolent crimes.

Tenants would go through an application process and voluntarily sign a one-year agreement in which they would each pay $100 per week to live in the facility, ministry officials had told the Council.

Lynn Johnson, executive director and co-founder of the ministry, said while conducting jail ministries in Scott and Rock Island counties, she found women often had nowhere to go, which suggested a need for this type of service.

She described the boarding house as "hope for the hopeless" — providing services and programming to the women as they try to get back on their feet.

In describing the concept to the Council in previous weeks, Johnson said the women would be required to check-in and check-out of the home each week and could not leave without being accompanied by a friend or staff person.

The ministry is modeled after the book "Miss Brenda and the Loveladies," which was based upon a successful boarding house in Birmingham, Alabama.

While the current zoning, R-4 Moderate Density Dwelling District, could have fulfilled the ministry's intent, rezoning to R-5 Medium Density Dwelling District was sought to increase the maximum number of tenants to six, plus a housemother.

The Council had expressed concerns about the safety of the building and requested an inspection prior to the next discussion of the proposal. The inspection was to be conducted before Tuesday's meeting.

Public Works Director Nicole Gleason said a rental inspection was completed last week, as is the normal protocol, after the ministry and the city encountered some initial troubles.

During the Council's Nov. 21 meeting, Johnson said inspectors would be unable to gain access to the building, but said the owners were committed to any necessary inspections before renovations began.

"The owner lives in California and has an estate person out of Muscatine," Johnson said. "It has gone into foreclosure and so the bank, PennyMac, has taken over and taken her locks off and put their locks on at this time."

Before last week's inspection, a rental inspection had been completed in 2015, but only the lower floor could be accessed. At the time, the owner was inhabiting the top unit and renting the lower unit.

Neither Johnson nor Brett Marshall, the ministry's legal counsel, responded to questions about the reason for withdrawing the request.

During Tuesday's management update meeting, City Attorney Tom Warner said with the rezoning request withdrawn, the property would be treated as a rental moving forward because it is not owner-occupied.

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