ST. CLOUD -- The St. Cloud City Council has voted to hear an appeal of a recent decision made by the Zoning Board of Appeals. The council voted four to three to hold a public hearing to allow an expansion of an existing homeless shelter.

The Executive Director of Homeless Helping Homeless Harry Fleegel who operates the Lincoln Center at 630 Lincoln Avenue Southeast is appealing the approval of the amendment for a conditional use permit.

The ZBA held a public hearing on April 19th and approved the request on May 17th to allow them to increase the number of overnight guests that can stay at the facility.

During the first public hearing, a number of residents and business owners in that neighborhood spoke out against the plan for expansion.  They say there has been an increase in crime in the area since the facility opened.

One of the conditions of the amended CUP is that the facility must have one staff person per two guests at all times.  They say 12 staff members for 25 guests on the site day and night 365 days a year is financially impossible to maintain.  Fleegel is seeking to reduce the minimum on-site staffing ratio to one staff per six sheltered persons at all times.

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Council member Mike Conway says the facility is a good idea, but the running of it has become a little lax. He says a public hearing by the city council would allow them to go even further than the rules put in place by the ZBA.

Council member George Hontos says the operators of the facility have not been helped by the leniency the city has shown over the past 15 months.  Hontos argued in favor of upholding the ZBA's decision.

Council President Jeff Goerger says the Fleegels have a wonderful heart and a wonderful mission, but the facility has been damaging to the neighborhood.

After a lengthy discussion, the city council voted to hold a public hearing at their next meeting on June 20th.  After that public hearing, the city council will have the option of affirming the ZBA decision, amending it, or denying it.

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