Vote to approve El Dorado homeless shelter falls short

EL DORADO, Kansas – Three of the five El Dorado city commissioners voted to clear the way for a homeless shelter to open at an abandoned motel site. The problem for shelter supporters is they needed four votes to get the shelter approved.

Because of earlier votes by the El Dorado planning commission and the Butler County commission to deny a permit to open the shelter at the site of the abandoned Blue Spruce motel, El Dorado’s city commission needed to vote either 5-0 or 4-1 in favor to clear the way for the plan.

Instead, it voted three to two in favor, one vote short of the super-majority it needed.

Supporters of the Butler Homeless Initiative, which came up with the plan to turn the motel into a shelter, tried to convince the commissioners that not having this shelter posed a public safety risk to residents, saying there have been numerous instances of homeless squatting in houses and damaging property. That included John Montgomery, who owns rental properties in El Dorado and said that happened in some of his houses.

“If they had some place, or if the sheriff and police had some place that they could have referred these people to, but they didn’t, it might have helped,” Montgomery said.

Ultimately two of the commissioners, David Chapin and Bill Young, said they could not get over the neighbors’ concerns of locating a shelter on Highway 54 near the El Dorado correctional facility, and they voted against the approval.

“I can’t discount how someone feels about their home, and their property and where they raised their kids, their family, where they choose to live,” Young said. “I don’t think that it’s right, and I don’t think that it’s neighborly.”

Representatives with the Butler Homeless Initiative said they have still been offered the chance to buy the motel site, and will consider whether to operate it as a motel.

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