Commission Denies Ruth Meiers Rezoning Permit - KFYRTV.COM - Bismarck, ND - News, Weather, Sports

Commission Denies Ruth Meiers Rezoning Permit

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After being denied by the Bismarck Planning and Zoning Commission in November, the Bismarck City Commission heard from both sides debating the Ruth Meiers rezoning application Tuesday night. After five and a half hours, 36 public testimonies, and a few tears, the Bismarck City Commission came to a decision.

Following months worth of petitions, public hearings and negotiations, the former Baptist Home will not be rezoned from residential to commercial to include a soup kitchen and food pantry.

Ruth Meiers bought the building and will be using it for transitional and affordable housing. Ruth Meiers executive director says adding the public services at that location would've massively benefit those in need.

"We look for where we can continue to provide those community-based services," said Ruth Meiers executive director Jaci Bugbee. "We know that many people, today actually 64 people came into our soup kitchen, which is the largest number I've had since I've started, we continue to provide those services."

But neighbors of the Boulevard Avenue site say they are afraid of what those services would bring to the area.

"There is a vast concern that the open door services that Ruth Meiers tries to we feel force into this area, will entice indigents to live amongst our streets and nearby parks," said Debra Duppong, a neighbor who spoke in opposition to the rezoning.

"The Baptist Home had to put a note on the door saying this is still the Baptist Home it is not a homeless shelter, yet," says Lee Jacobs. "So evidently, they've already been having trouble with walk-in traffic."

But there were quite a lot of people in favor of the rezoning. Bobbie Gitter says she lives behind the current Ruth Meiers soup kitchen, and has never had problems.

"Taking care of others when they're two miles away. I think if you live in the neighborhood and there's this opportunity for people who are hungry, poor and homeless, this would give them an opportunity," Gitter said. "I'm in favor of that."

A petition signed by those opposing the rezoning required four out of five commissioners to approve the motion for it to pass. Even after multiple testimonies from those in favor, the strong presence of the opposing neighbors won out. In the end, the motion to deny the permit passed by a unanimous 5-0 vote.

Now, Bugbee says, Ruth Meiers is looking into other properties in the area for the soup kitchen and food pantry. The organization hasn't made any decisions yet.

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