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We Need To Come Together And Solve These Zoning Issues

The color purple is prevalent throughout our country every October as people celebrate Domestic Violence Awareness Month with awareness walks, events and news coverage.

Will our area ever take domestic violence seriously the rest of the year?

We’re starting to wonder.

Twice in the past three years the Salvation Army’s Anew Center for abused women has had possible new sites vanish because the Salvation Army couldn’t get zoning variances, first in Ellery and then in Ellicott. Last week, a site for a new women’s and children’s shelter proposed by the board of the UCAN City Mission in Jamestown was nixed by the Ellicott Zoning Board of Appeals/Planning Board.

Each site failed for different reasons. An Ellery site for the Anew Center was opposed by residents who feared placing the center in Ellery would create more crime in the area. A site near the Jamestown/Ellicott border was opposed for similar reasons. The Fairmount Avenue site proposed for a women and children’s shelter was voted down because the property’s owner hadn’t tried to realize a reasonable return on the property before asking for a use variance. It’s hard to argue with the will of the people or the lawsuits that will follow when a variance is given outside of the rules. It’s also hard to argue with the need for a new site for the Anew Center or a shelter to help homeless women and children.

According to a 2019 county, there were a reported 206 women identified as homeless in Chautauqua County who could have been helped by a women’s shelter. When it comes to domestic violence, Jamestown Police Department statistics submitted to the state Division of Criminal Justic Services show that between 32% and 44% of aggravated assaults that result in charges in Jamestown are related to domestic violence over the past nine years. The same report shows between 51% and 67% of simple assaults, a number that ranges from 390 cases to 675 cases over a nine-year span, are related to domestic violence. Over a decade, that totals thousands of women just inside the Jamestown city limits who could have benefitted from expanded room at the Anew Center.

There has been a demonstrated need in our community for both a women’s shelter and more room in the south county’s shelter for abused women. COVID-19, with the unemployment, illness and stress it has created in households throughout the county, has only added to the need.

We understand people’s desire to protect their families and their neighborhoods. At the same time, as a community, we must come together and find a location for both the Anew Center and the UCAN City Mission’s proposed women’s shelter. While we dilly-dally with zoning issues, the needs of women and children in our community continue unabated.

That is unacceptable.

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