BZA denies variance for clothing center


Volunteers with the Jackson County Clothing Center hope to continue serving those in need for years to come.

But where the nonprofit relocates to distribute free clothing is still up in the air at the moment.

Recently, an affordable opportunity presented itself for the center to rent a home at 708 W. Second St. next to Kovener’s Korner ice cream shop.

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In order to operate the clothing center from the property, the organization requested a land use variance from the city. The home is currently zoned R-3 for a multifamily dwelling but most recently housed a Christian counseling service.

On Tuesday, the Seymour Board of Zoning Appeals voted 4-1 to deny the variance. Board member Jim Myers was the only one to cast a supporting vote.

The decision overturned a favorable recommendation from the Seymour Plan Commission. That board voted 6-5 earlier this month to approve the request.

Dave Eggers, who sits on both boards, said he is convinced there has to be a better location for the center, possibly on the east side of the city closer to the clientele it serves.

“I find it very hard to believe that we cannot find a more suitable location to make this practical and make everybody happy,” he said.

The center currently operates out of a building at 207 N. Pine St. owned by Dr. Charles Calhoun. With Calhoun retiring in the near future and the need for more space, volunteer Sandra Royer said they are looking to find a new location.

During Tuesday’s meeting, Royer represented the clothing center, which has served the community for the past 30 years.

She said the center wants to be a good neighbor and is willing to implement measures to curb some of the concerns brought up at the Aug. 13 plan commission meeting.

Several neighbors complained about donated clothing being left in trash bags and cardboard boxes outside the center when it is closed and people rummaging through them.

Royer said the center has tried to discourage people from leaving items when there is no one to accept them but planned to install a functional and attractive drop-off box on the house’s porch.

“We also will make daily checks to be sure that this is being complied with seven days a week,” she said.

To reduce parking issues, Royer said the center’s hours would be limited to morning hours Monday through Wednesday for a total of seven and a half hours a week. The number of clients served each day is limited to 20 but usually is only about half of that, she said.

“I don’t think this would infringe on the neighborhood that much,” she said.

Carolyn Bruce is a longtime volunteer and said the clothing center has operated from five different locations over the years, including a church basement, the Vehslage Building in downtown Seymour and even on South O’Brien Street in a building owned by Silgan.

“We have improved, and I can make a promise that we will keep it clean,” Bruce said. “These people that come to the clothing center that do need it, they are nice people. We treat them like human beings, and when they leave, you can tell they feel better.”

Randy Lusk lives at 704 W. Second St. He has no problem with helping the needy, but he does have an issue with the lack of parking on West Second Street and the potential for donations to be strewn about outside.

“We don’t want that in our neighborhood,” he said.

Tom Melton has lived on Emerson Drive near Kovener’s Korner since 1976 and said it’s a great neighborhood.

“But enough is enough,” he said. “We’ve got enough on that corner right now without bringing in any more traffic.”

Resident Bonnie Morris also lives on Emerson Drive and has been there for 51 years. She said the location would be an inconvenience to the center’s clientele.

“It needs to be located on the east side of town,” she said.

Royer said the center’s board has looked for a commercial property or storefront but can’t afford it.

Morris also shared her concerns about what kind of people the center will attract to the neighborhood.

“We’ve got enough vandalism in the Boulevards as it is,” she said. “It’s going to draw all these people that like to steal stuff to sell for drugs. They’re going to be over there digging through stuff on the porch at night, and I’m not comfortable living near that.”

Myers asked if the center’s drop-off box could be padlocked to prevent people from rummaging through it.

Royer said it would be more expensive, but they could comply with that request. She also said they were looking into purchasing a security camera.

“We don’t see a bad clientele,” she said. “The people that leave stuff outside are the donators. I feel like this is a nice, safe location. We will be good neighbors.”

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