LEWISTON — With council approval Tuesday, the city would hold a hearing April 19 on a proposed moratorium on homeless shelters.

Before directing staff last month to draft the moratorium language, the council heard hours of feedback from the public who were largely opposed to a six-month pause aimed at a shelter and resource center project previously proposed by a group of residents.

A majority of the City Council has expressed support for the moratorium, which officials say would be used to consider further shelter regulations or licensing. Opponents say it’s unnecessary and may have unintended consequences.

If approved Tuesday, the council would hold a public hearing April 19, and would conduct first and second readings that night. If approved April 19, the moratorium would go into effect 30 days later, and would remain in effect for 180 days starting March 28.

According to Mayor Carl Sheline, who has opposed the moratorium, the effort would be defeated if the council votes down the item Tuesday.

The proposed moratorium language, included in the City Council’s agenda packet this week, states that while shelters are conditionally permitted in a section of the city, “the city’s current zoning and land use ordinances do not adequately address the use.”


The language also includes statistics on police calls for service during the city’s two previous emergency shelter operations at the Lewiston Armory at 65 Central Ave. and the Ramada Hotel & Conference Center by Wyndham at 490 Pleasant St. The Police Department was paid by the armory shelter operators to maintain a constant presence there.

The moratorium language says during the operation, police “received a number of complaints from area residents that alleged a variety of offenses related to the shelter, including public drinking, trespass, public indecency, drug use, intoxication, and theft of packages,” and that the moratorium would be used to “undertake a planning process that incorporates the lessons of the two temporary shelters, including consideration of the appropriate siting of such facilities.”

Opponents have argued that the proper regulations are already in place — including a Planning Board process that would vet any proposal — and that the city could conduct a review of its policies without the need for a moratorium.

According to David Hediger, director of Planning and Code Enforcement, current zoning allows shelters as a conditional use in the downtown residential and neighborhood conservation “B” districts, which are in the greater downtown area.

In a memo to the council, Hediger said in order to operate a shelter in Lewiston, it requires development review approval from the Planning Board as a conditional use, during which the board would consider whether the proposed use “is of such a character that the use will have significant adverse impact upon the value or quiet possession of surrounding properties greater than would normally occur from such a use in the zoning district.”

Opponents also believe the wording of the moratorium, which states “no person or organization shall develop, construct or operate a new shelter or expand an existing shelter within the city,” could have unintended consequences.


In a widely circulated document on the moratorium drafted by members of the downtown organization Healthy Neighborhoods, opponents said a moratorium could prevent existing shelters from “expanding services to improve their work or respond to emergencies.”

Healthy Neighborhoods said the council “already has all of the tools it needs” to make decisions about the proposed low-barrier shelter and resource center, including the power to approve the federal funds sought by the group.

Sheline urged the council to “vote the moratorium down” Tuesday.

“This meaningless moratorium effort is a complete waste of time and resources and does absolutely nothing to address homelessness is Lewiston,” he said, adding that the council should “come together”  instead of “passing a measure that makes an unsympathetic statement criminalizing our city’s homeless.”

The council was presented with the proposal for a low-barrier, 24-bed transitional resource center in February, where the issue became tense almost from the outset.

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