History of the Effort to Revoke New Life Evangelistic Center’s License to Operate
On April 26, 2013, in response to the alleged detriment New Life Evangelistic Center (NLEC) has wrought on Downtown St. Louis over the past few decades, a group of downtown residents submitted a petition to the City of St. Louis Board of Public Service (BPS), signed by 138 nearby property owners, asking that NLEC’s occupancy permit be terminated. This petition triggered a series of hearings in front of BPS that started in the fall of 2013 and continued through the spring of 2014. These hearings culminated in a ruling from BPS in December of 2014 that NLEC was a detriment to the community.
BPS gave NLEC three options as a result of this determination:
- NLEC could comply with its permitted occupancy of 32 shelter beds (instead of the hundreds of beds NLEC has been operating)
- NLEC could apply for a new occupancy permit for a higher number of beds and go through the mandated “plat and petition” process to secure neighborhood consent for those additional beds
- NLEC could appeal this ruling
NLEC chose in March of 2015 to file suit in federal court arguing that it is a church and thus immune from the BPS order and regulation by the City of St. Louis. NLEC also, while the federal lawsuit was pending, chose in July to apply for a new occupancy permit and asked for a waiver from complying with the plat and petition process to secure community consent.
On October 27, 2015, the federal court dismissed NLEC’s federal lawsuit, terminating the temporary restraining order keeping the City from shutting NLEC down because they lack an occupancy permit to operate more than 32 beds. In response, NLEC has asked the City to rule on its new permit application and waive the plat and petition process, the process that gives the community the ability to protect itself from an operator deemed to be a bad actor, like NLEC has been ruled to be through a lengthly process of public hearings. In short, NLEC wishes to continue operating in non-compliance and escape the consequences from the protest process that resulted in a ruling determining them to be a detriment to the neighborhood.
DNA has learned the facts of the situation and DNA’s Safety Committee recommended that the DNA Board of Directors take a stance in favor of the BPS ruling. The DNA Board has taken this all into consideration and voted to demand that the City of St. Louis, in response to NLEC’s request for a waiver from the normal plat and petition process:
- Require NLEC to obtain community consent through the standard plat and petition process to operate with more than 32 shelter beds at 1411 Locust Street
- Enforce the BPS ruling for NLEC to reduce the number of shelter beds to 32 as they are currently licensed to operate
The plat and petition process allows residents to decide whether or not to allow certain establishments to operate in their neighborhood; such as any place serving liquor or a hotel. NLEC is required to go through this process, and they should be treated the same as any other establishment required to undergo plat and petition especially in light of the BPS ruling that stated they are a detriment to the neighborhood.
Waiving this process will set a disturbing precedent, and it should cause concern for all neighborhoods in the City of St. Louis. This issue should trouble anyone who believes the residents of our City deserve to have a say in what occurs outside of their front door.