A consortium of Minot churches looking to provide a winter shelter for homeless men received the support of the Minot Planning Commission Monday.
The commission voted to recommend the Minot City Council allow up to 12 men to stay in a shelter house at 111-6th Ave. NW through May 31.
"We are mostly concerned about the winter months," consortium spokeswoman Katie Nesdahl said. "We are hoping that, in Minot, there will be a shelter that's more permanent eventually."
She indicated that the consortium could be back with another shelter request for next winter if necessary to address a continuing concern. However, First Lutheran Church, which owns the house proposed to serve as a shelter this winter, plans to remove the house this summer.
Nesdahl said the Minot Area Homeless Coalition reports that it has housed men in hotels, but it often pays to transport men to other communities that have shelters.
The Minot Planning Department received a couple of written objections to the Men's Winter Refuge, but no one spoke against the project at Monday's meeting.
City Council member George Withus responded to concerns about safety in the neighborhood, noting that background checks will be done and the men will be transported to the shelter at 9 p.m. and picked up the next morning at 7 a.m.
"Most of the people have jobs. They just have a hard time finding a place to stay," Withus said.
Three trained, volunteer staff will be on site to monitor the shelter, Nesdahl said. The shelter will have a dedicated phone line to the police station.
The commission also is recommending the council waive the requirement for a sprinkler system due to the staff monitoring and temporary nature of the permit.
Commissioner Travis Zablotney supported the waiver, saying there's more risk of people freezing than burning in this case.
"That's why we are here to make decisions that don't fit into the ordinance box that make sense," he said in voting for the project.
The commission also is recommending another project that came with the support of a church congregation.
The commission consented to a Verizon cell tower at the southeast corner of Highway 83 North and 62nd Avenue Northwest, just north of Faith United Methodist Church.
The congregation had relocated after their previous church property was devastated by the 2011 flood. The Rev. Debra Ball-Kilbourne said lease income from the cell tower will enable the church to pay back its Small Business Administration loan on the new building in half the time. She also won't have to go outdoors to complete a cell phone call as she must do now because of poor reception, she said.
Congregation member Jeff Dunn said a cell tower is needed to improve service and eliminate a dead spot between Minot and Minot Air Force Base for the safety of travelers.
The commission held in committee three other cell tower requests from Verizon for locations within Minot.
"It's been a long time since there's been much in the way of increased capacity, and you know how the city is growing and how it is projected to grow," said John Rowe of Buell Consulting, representing Northwest Dakota Cellular of North Dakota Partnership in Bloomington, Minn. "The use of wireless has grown a lot."
Buell said the increased consumer use of data plans, the number of computers that run from cell towers and the need to gain further penetration into neighborhoods requires more towers.
"The time has come. If we don't put more sites in town, a year from now there will be major problems with lack of capacity," he said.
Proposed tower sites are 901-22nd Ave. NW, south of Lewis & Clark School; 1919-2nd St. SE, north of the Cenex gas station next to Kmart; and 1505-2nd Ave. SW, in the Arrowhead area. Buell said Northwest Dakota Cellular plans to bring a few more Verizon cellular tower requests to future planning commission meetings for summer construction.
Commissioners voiced concern about the proliferation of towers and stressed the need to co-locate wireless services. Buell responded that co-location agreements are common in the industry. Verizon also has antennas on city water towers.
"We are really going to try to keep these down to a minimum," commission chairman Dave Pankow said, "so we don't have the city littered with them."