Fort Smith Board approves zoning plan for Next Step Day Room

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,338 views 

After months of requests, rejected requests, community meetings, study sessions and negotiations, the Fort Smith Board of Directors voted to approve a planned zoning district (PZD) at 815 S. Sixth Street that will allow a new facility for Next Step Day Room (NSDR).

The ordinance will allow NSDR to move its base operations from North Sixth Street to approximately four acres on the northeast corner of South I and South Sixth streets. The zone change to a PZD will allow a homeless shelter with non-congregate housing. The property will consist of an 800-square-feet building for office and educational space as well as a kitchen.

Behind that facility, there will be 30 small individual housing units for people transitioning from homelessness, said Sharon Chapman, NSDR executive director.

Prospective residents would submit an application for residency and would live in the units for approximately six months as they worked on healthy living, getting well and getting out of homelessness, Chapman said.

Steven Harvey with Boyd Metals addressed the board prior to the vote saying they had serious concerns about adding to the homeless population in the area based on the increase of problems they have seen with the homeless at their property over the past six months.

Vice Mayor and Director Jarred Rego told the board and those attending the meeting that because NSDR would close their facility when the new one opened and would not provide emergency or walk-in services at the new location, the change would not increase homeless activity in the area.

Director Kevin Settle said the city would have approximately 18 or more months before the new facility is completed to work with business owners about possible city changes that could help ensure safety for the business.

This is the second time this year NSDR has gone before the board in an attempt to move its homeless services. In February, NSDR rescinded its request for a zoning change that would have allowed it to move operations from North Sixth Street to South U Street. The matter was originally presented to the board Jan. 4 at a regular meeting. It was tabled at that time to allow the board to discuss the matter during the Jan. 25 board study session. Sharon Chapman, NSDR executive director, would eventually withdraw the original plan after other board delays.

The approved ordinance will require the NSDR facility on North Sixth Street to close once the new facility is opened.