After nearly an hour and a half of comments from the public, Butler Homeless Initiative President Melody Gault withdrew BHI's request for a special use permit which would allow a transitional home at 131 N. Star.

After nearly an hour and a half of comments from the public, Butler Homeless Initiative President Melody Gault withdrew BHI's request for a special use permit which would allow a transitional home at 131 N. Star.

The request had been presented to the El Dorado City Commission during their meeting Monday evening, drawing a large crowd.

City staff had determined they met the zoning ordinance requirements and the Planning Commission had a tie vote for the SUP, which is considered a failure to recommend.

After opening the topic for public comment, the commissioners heard from several people both for and against the SUP.

Gault spoke first explaining the project, which they have called Jeremiah's Hope.

She said the property has six bedrooms and two baths, with just over 2,000 square feet.

She said two bunkbeds per room would allow 16 individuals, with a total of 20 persons per night. She also said they would not exceed the 30-person maximum set by the ordinance.

"I understand the neighbors have concerns and rightly so," she continued. "No matter where it is placed, in the end everyone is entitled to their concerns and some are very valid."

She asked, though, where those down on their luck are supposed to go.

Gault said they are a faith-based organization willing to address homelessness, adding that the city already has two transitional homes - the SafeHouse and Richie's House.

She also said clients staying at Jeremiah's Hope would be from El Dorado.

"We also expect there would be no decline in property value, just as there has not been with the addition of the SafeHouse or Richie's House," she said.

They were going to purchase the home for $60,000 with proposed upgrades of more than $40,000.

"I believe it is time to put a face to those living in poverty," she concluded.

The next to speak was Leon Koehn, who lives on NW 110th and owns the property at 137 N. Star.

He began by reading a letter from Matt Grange, who shared information about the proposal and his experience with a family placed in one of his rentals by BHI. He recounted the problems and calls from the neighbors and police, as well as the damage to the home. That couple had been involved with identity theft, burglary and more.

Koehn then went on to say he is a licensed real estate appraiser and shared his concerns on how property values would go down with transitional housing in the area. He said there are eight homes in the immediate area that would be affected.

"How much it's going to hurt our values, we really don't know," he said. "Only time will tell. I believe having a homeless shelter would severely limit our potential buyers. I ask you, who would want to purchase a property as a family right next to a homeless shelter?"

He said he was not sure he would be able to rent his home with this there.

"I feel that a special use permit for 131 N. Star will take approximately $30,000 to $50,000 out of our pocket for these eight houses," he said.

He also proposed the remodeling cost would be closer to $87,000.

Another concern Koehn addressed was parking, saying there are two spots in front of the house and two that would be put in the back, although they could have six cars for residents, as well as others for volunteers and visitors. He asked where they would all park.

He suggested the city have a site they could donate and then BHI could build new.

Kristina Young also spoke, saying she works with Mid Kansas Action Program. She said El Dorado currently has seven homeless individuals and families in transitional housing, with four on the waiting list for supporting housing.

The next to speak was Sonja Milbourn, who lives on North Emporia.

She began by asking everyone to think about the fact they have a home to go to that night.

"We're talking about children," she said, "not a halfway house for drug addicts."

She shared her experience of being at El Dorado Lake on a cold and windy night and there was a family there living in a tent with children.

She also said she helped start the SafeHouse where they dealt with the same issues, saying fears are not based in fact.

"I know and love this community," she concluded. "One day El Dorado will have transitional housing."

The next to speak was Steve Carmichael, who has lived in El Dorado for 60 years, with the last 26 on North Washington.

He was opposed to the SUP.

"They are wanting to change the dynamics of the neighborhood I live in," he said.

He said he could lose 50 percent of the value in his home.

He said he and his wife were going to be moving and using the value of their home to pay for a new house.

He also was concerned because of safety, saying while there are many reasons people become homeless, one high on the list was drugs and alcohol. Other reasons were mental illness and just released from jail.

Carmichael said most addicts end up stealing to sustain their addiction.

He said if this was passed they would have to add a security system and motion lights. He suggested BHI help families with their rent so they did not become homeless.

Rob Lane also spoke against the SUP.

He also pointed out such a facility is not mentioned in the comprehensive plan,

The second reason was potential benefit the community was outweighed by certain detrimental duplications.

He also said the project would be well meaning and kind, but it is duplicating services.

He went on to talk about the number of homeless, using BHI's number of 150 in the county. He said that was only .002 percent of the county's population and .0011 percent of the city's.

"I could not come up with anything that contributes as far as a community on a whole," he said.

John Hamm spoke next, representing the Ministerial Alliance and providing a letter signed by 13 pastors in support.

Chris McGathy also spoke, saying he was in favor of it and there are homeless in El Dorado.

"I now this because I have here six years," he said.

Steven Walker asked for a vote in favor of the SUP, said he moved done here to find work and was living in his truck when BHI offered him assistance and helped him get back on his feet.

The next to speak was Debbie Work, who addressed a couple of things.

She said the commission had an obligation to the homeowners, as well as those who are homeless.

"It's not that they are criminal, it's a travesty," she said.

She explained how one night here could help them get into the Rapid Rehousing program.

She agreed it could affect the ability to sell a house.

Alanna Young spoke next, saying she was recently homeless due to health reasons, but was able to get back on her feet. She encouraged they approved the SUP.

Kathy Long also urged the commission to vote no because she did not believe it would be good for the property.

She offered four reasons why the property was not suitable.

One was being inadequate and unsafe for children

The second was it was unreasonable for 20 people to reside peacefully in this size home.

The third was with the exemption of the hospital, all surrounding properties.

The final this was to ask the commissioners if they would buy or rent a home next to a homeless shelter.

Crystal Wallace also spoke.

She said they have looked at many buildings over the years and tried to find a satisfactory answer.

She also pointed out the home was close to resources, such as the Salvation Army and Head Start.

"I myself have housed quite a few homeless over the years," Wallace said. "Each one has moved out, gotten employed and become a contributing member to El Dorado."

She said her first impression of El Dorado was people here have a hard life.

"I have never seen so many people who struggle every day to find their way," she said.

Pastor Stan Seymour also talked about the issue. He is pastor of the First Christian Church that is next to the property.

He said he is hearing two things – need and location. He said most are not saying there is not a need, just that the location is a problem, something he said they would get in any residential area.

He said he had been asked by his neighbors to not support this.

"I want to be a good neighbor to my neighbors, but I also want to be responsible to homeless," he said.

He said they have to try to lift them up and wanted the City Commission to be part of the solution.

He asked them to get engaged with the other municipalities about the needs of homeless and available grants, as well as ask how they can partner with the college for certificate programs to provide needed training.

Seymour asked the commissioners to think about what kind of land is available outside residential areas.

"I believe there is a need," he said. "But along with that need, we have to worry about our location.

"I'm putting the monkey on your back. We really need to get a coalition among the cities.”

Gault then addressed the commission again, reading her devotion for the day, which began with "It is good to recognize weakness, that keeps you looking to Me, your strength..."

She then said she wanted to withdraw her request.

"I want you to come to the table with BHI and let's find a solution that will make everybody happy," she said. "We've been at this since 2007 and I am tired. You are tired of listening to us. Let's make this work and let's make this work for everybody."

Mayor Mike Fagg then said he would accept the challenge, saying he thought there was a need.

"The city has property around and I think it is time the city takes on Mr. Seymour's challenge," Fagg said.

Commissioner Nick Badwey said he sat on the board for the transitional housing committee and said the didn't know if they ever had a complete consensus but rather people were tired when they made their recommendation, which included allowing transitional housing in R1 and R3 residential zones.

"I take some responsibility for that too because I signed off on it too," he said.

He said if they go through this again and find a place, they are just going to have to do it.

"You won't find a place where businesses and residents don't disagree," Commissioner Bill Young said. "We gave you a path and you met those standards. I'm disappointed Melody withdrew."