NIAGARA FALLS – The operators of a homeless shelter for men on Ferry Avenue have asked the city Zoning Board of Appeals to overrule the city’s order stopping the service.
Charles J. Naughton, co-counsel for the Niagara Gospel Rescue Mission, which filed suit against the city last month, said Wednesday that the court case, scheduled to be heard Wednesday, was adjourned until sometime this summer, while the mission tries the Zoning Board route.
State Supreme Court Justice Frank Caruso signed a temporary restraining order April 26, barring the city from enforcing its decision that the shelter at 1023 Ferry Ave. violates the city zoning ordinance.
That case was to be argued Wednesday, but Naughton, who is representing the mission along with Michele G. Bergevin, said the mission filed an appeal with the Zoning Board of Appeals on Tuesday. The matter is to be considered by the board at 5:30 p.m. June 17.
Filing an appeal has the same effect as the restraining order: It automatically bars the city from enforcing its cease-and-desist order, signed April 8 by Patrick Ciccarelli, the city’s sign and zoning officer.
His letter said that a homeless shelter is not a permitted use in a multifamily residential zone. The question is whether it was allowed under the ordinance as it stood in 2010, when the shelter opened. Ciccarelli said in his April 8 letter that the mission was misinterpreting a letter he sent at the time as allowing the shelter.
Naughton said he and Bergevin believe that Ciccarelli is wrong on the law. Chief Building Inspector Dennis F. Virtuoso, who said last November that he believed the shelter to be legal, is taking a more cautious stance now. Reached by phone Wednesday, he said of the shelter, “We understand their plight. They’re doing a tremendous job there, but we’ve got to follow the ordinances set by the City Council.”
Corporation Counsel Craig H. Johnson said, “They filed for an interpretation. I imagine I would meet with the code-enforcement people in the very near future to work on a response for the Zoning Board of Appeals.” The city took up the issue of the shelter last fall, after receiving complaints from a neighborhood block club.