In recent weeks I’ve received numerous complaints and questions about the situation at the so-called “homeless camp” in the parking lot and property of the First United Methodist Church in downtown Great Falls.
The situation has caused a lot of controversy due to it’s location and the fact that the “camp” is growing, in the midst of our central business district and bordering on a residential neighborhood.
In previous city commission meetings Great Falls Police Chief Newton has outlined the very troubling increase in crime in the area associated with the activities at FUMC and at last night’s meeting City Manager Greg Doyon addressed the issue directly, making the following statement:
“I want to update efforts with regard to first United Methodist Church. As I conveyed to the commission previously the church has filed an application for a conditional use permit to operate an emergency shelter on their property and the city is currently engaged in reviewing that application and as the commission knows that process will work its way through a public process. Once that application’s completed the planning board level and then to the commission so the public has an opportunity to weigh in and comment in support and opposition to that proposal.
Formal notice of violation was also issued recently because of the tents on the property, the tents on the property constitute a zoning violation because under the code they’re not allowed to do that.
The City is also going to commence a nuisance complaint process and that is essentially based on the level of complaints that the city is starting to get as a result of the church’s efforts down there.
I’m not gonna say anything more on it because of the processes that I just outlined in some of those cases that will come before this body, especially the nuisance one, but if you had a legal question I would probably defer that to Jeff who I suspect is not gonna say a whole lot at this point either.
I will editorialize and say I know that people are frustrated on both sides. People want to help the homeless and they’re trying to find the right way to do that but we also have ordinances and laws in place for order in the downtown so to speak and so there is a process to address those grievances and I wanna let people know that the City is not ignoring it, we’re following the processes that we have available to us or under the law after working with the church and some other efforts.”