City Mission wants to expand into South Strabane

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With its campus expansion seemingly going nowhere, Washington City Mission now plans an extensive renovation of its facilities and to move the recycling and donation center to South Strabane Township.


City Mission President Dean Gartland said his organization expects to buy a property on Crile Road in South Strabane Friday and eventually convert it into a new recycling center that will be able to accept twice the amount of donations than the current one at the rear of the mission on West Wheeling Street can accommodate.


That would open up property at the City Mission’s current location to build a homeless veterans’ facility and improve the dorms. Gartland expects to spend about $10 million on the total expansion project that will take at least seven years to complete.


“This is a huge tipping point for the City Mission,” Gartland said.


The mission requested more than $480,000 from the Washington County local share account fund to build the donation and recycling center in South Strabane. The total cost of the project is about $1.4 million. The LSA committee will make its recommendations on funding in the coming weeks.


The City Mission’s original plan included buying adjacent land to its current plot along West Wheeling Street and expanding the recycling facility, renovating the dorms and building a new center to house homeless veterans. Washington’s planning commission unanimously approved that design in August, but it met resistance on City Council because it would have violated an ordinance that does not allow the City Mission to expand its footprint.


“The city is being mindful that the mission is located in the central business district,” Mayor Brenda Davis said. “We have to be very mindful of the properties that are coming off of our tax rolls as exempt properties for nonprofits. We have an extensive list and we just can’t have more taken off because that affects our budget and bottom line.”


Gartland said the mission has been trying for the past year to get a variance from the city with no progress, forcing officials to consider other options.


“We wanted to keep everything here,” Gartland said. “But I’m not interested in wasting the city’s time and money or our time and money. It’s not going anywhere. It doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.”


However, he pointed to several positives with the altered plans.


The larger homeless facility will house 20 people instead of 16. It will also move residents out of the church area and into modernized dorms. The city facility will contain a college-style training center in the church basement for residents.


The recycling facility will be within a quick “shuttle ride” for residents, Gartland said, and will allow the mission to expand its services and create 19 new jobs. He hopes to open that new facility by spring 2015 with the total campus renovations being completed by 2020.


“We had to rethink everything,” Gartland said. “It’s a shame we can’t do it because it would’ve been a beautiful facility, but there’s only so much we can do here. We’re so crunched here, so there’s a lot more we can do over there.”


South Strabane officials will hold a zoning hearing at 7:30 p.m. Monday to discuss converting the Crile Road property into a recycling and donation center. City Mission will need a “special exception” in that industrial-zoned area to use to use the property.


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