A controversial youth home at 63rd and Leavenworth Road received approval after a lengthy Unified Government Commission discussion on Thursday night.
Commissioners voted 10-0 to approve the recommendation of the Planning Commission for Avery’s Village home for 50 youth for a two-year special use permit. The home is in the former Medicalodge nursing home building.
The approval came after another motion was defeated that would have limited the youth home to a shorter permit.
The permit had been sent back to the Planning Commission earlier in order that those for and against it could come to an agreement; however, the two sides were still apart.
The Planning Commission put stipulations on the project, including that it would be for children in need of care and not juvenile delinquents. The planning staff also will review it when it comes back for renewal in two years, to make sure it does not look like a hangout for kids, according to planning staff.
Originally, the application for the permit proposed 70 children at the location, but it was lowered to 50 at earlier meetings. UG commissioners proposed lowering it to 35; however, that idea did not advance. Other commissioners and the mayor questioned whether the facility’s business plan would work with fewer children or a shorter time period for the permit.
The applicant, Fred Avery, told the commission he is planning to open the facility in about three months, possibly February.
Several residents in the area appeared in opposition to the youth home, with several other residents appearing in favor of it.
Deniese Davis, treasurer of the Leavenworth Road Association, told the commission that she was not protesting the Avery family, and it wasn’t a “not in my backyard” position.
“It’s always been about location site, and the facility not being a safe place for kids on the corner of state Highway 5, and no green space,” Davis said. She did not hold out much hope for the state of Kansas to regulate the home, and said they would have to count on the UG Commission. She added she would probably be for the youth home had it been in another location.
According to the applicant, they have bought a home next door on the east side, and can use that yard as green space for the youth.
Lou Braswell, executive director of the Leavenworth Road Association, said the association would work with Avery’s Village if the permit passed. They only opposed its location, not the persons proposing the project, she said.
Three persons who live at a shelter in Kansas City, Kansas, also spoke to the commission in favor of the youth home.
“I have never seen homelessness like I’ve seen it here,” one of the residents of the shelter told the commission. Homelessness is particularly hard on children, the shelter residents said. There are currently a number of homeless youth in the community, they said.
According to the UG agenda, Kathleen Litke retracted her opposition to the special use permit. She had signed a petition against it, and then changed her mind and stated she was in favor of it. The protest petition was ruled invalid.
A nearby resident, Litke said she had discovered there would be children in need of care at the facility, not juvenile delinquents. Children from Wyandotte County who have nowhere to go are often shipped off to Wichita or other cities, she said, and some families cannot afford to travel there to see them.
For more information about this lengthy meeting, visit the UG YouTube page at https://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=unified+government+of+wyandotte+county, under the 7 p.m. Nov. 30 meeting.