River City Vineyard appealing city’s refusal on rezoning to OMB

River City Vineyard church is appealing a Sarnia City Council refusal to rezone the property it owns at Mitton St. N. and Essex for the purpose of a men's shelter.

The decision to appeal effectively means that the shelter will remain open to those seeking shelter other than that provided (but with some restrictions, says Esser) until the appeal is heard.

Pastor George Esser, who founded the church in 1988, told members of the Seaway Kiwanis Club at its Tuesday luncheon meeting that the steps River City took were because of a need in the city that some wouldn't acknowledge.

Esser said no issues came up when the organization met with neighbours.

The appeal to the Ontario Municipal Board, which oversees disputes that occur between an applicant and a municipality, costs $125, which Esser said he is taking to the city for payment. He had until Nov. 16 (30 days after the city refused the church request to make permanent a rezoning that would have permitted the shelter to exist.

The main argument against the River City shelter was that the facility, which began receiving clients last September (it officially opened in November), is no longer needed to serve the needs of the city's homeless residents.

Esser disputes that claim, saying that there are a number of circumstances in which someone needing shelter won't qualify for admittance to the Good Shepherd Lodge.

One is if the person needing shelter has been convicted of a crime relating to domestic abuse. It is not uncommon for there to be conditions attached to the homeless person that would prevent them from being in the vicinity of women, who also use the Good Shepherd Lodge.

Esser said his arguments before the OMB will focus on three key elements:

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