HALFWAY HOUSE WINS APPEAL
Illinois has a serious lack of transitional housing for people reintegrating into society after prison, but where to put such housing raises its own concerns. An adult transitional house in Springfield won an appeal this month over its zoning, but the case isn’t resolved yet. In April 2014, Calvin Jones of Springfield asked the city to rezone a building at 1322 S. 11th St. from commercial to residential so he could house people recovering from drug or alcohol dependencies, poverty, incarceration or family dysfunction. Jones couldn’t be reached for comment. George Sinclair of Springfield, who owns the surrounding buildings which house the Black Sheep Café, Skank Skates and Dumb Records, opposed the rezoning, saying it would endanger the young people who frequent those businesses. Sinclair says the Black Sheep is the oldest all-ages, alcohol-free venue in the country, but having parolees walk through his parking lot threatens to scuttle it. The city council ultimately approved the zoning change – even over the mayor’s veto – in July 2014 and granted Jones a variance on the minimum residential lot size from 2,500 square feet to only 1,048. Sinclair sued Jones and the city, saying he didn’t have a chance to weigh in on the variance, which wasn’t in the rezoning request. Sangamon County Chief Judge Leslie Graves agreed with Sinclair, but on Aug. 9, the Fourth District Appellate Court overruled Graves, saying Sinclair had ample opportunities to oppose the plan. The case goes back to Graves for further proceedings, but a new hearing date hasn’t been set. In the meantime, Jones’ voicemail at the halfway house says there’s one person living at the property.