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Zoning dispute delays church’s bid to establish center for the homeless

A year-long effort to establish a day center for homeless families by an historic church in the western New York city of Canandaigua has encountered another delay. 

In mid-August, the zoning board of appeals ruled that St. John’s Episcopal Church needs a special use permit in order to open the center. That decision affirmed an earlier determination by the city’s zoning officer.

Last year, Canandaigua’s planning commission denied the permit, but the 204-year-old church appealed that decision, questioning if it even needed the permit.

St. John’s has formed a partnership with a national non-profit, Family Promise, to organize the center, which would offer families a place to obtain services and help to become self-sufficient. 

According to a report in the Daily Messenger newspaper, neighbors who opposed the center raised concerns about traffic, parking, and safety.

Meanwhile, among those who supported the day center at the zoning hearing were Rev. David Hefling, rector at St. John’s; Rev. Prince Singh, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Rochester; and Angelica Johnson, Northeast region director for Family Promise.

Despite the setback, Hefling said the church won’t give up: “Loving your neighbor is not a choice; it is a command.” 

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