A judge's ruling has cleared the way for the opening of a homeless shelter on West Street in Annapolis.
Although they were not restricted by any court injunction, officials from a coalition of city churches had delayed moving the Light House shelter to 202-206 West St. pending the outcome of a legal challenge by two community groups.
But following Circuit Judge Martin A. Wolff's ruling against the community groups, a coalition official said yesterday the shelter may be open within weeks.
"We're going to go ahead with our cleaning and with our renovations and get ready to go into operation," said Vernon L. Thompson, a minister with the Calvary United Methodist Church and an official with the Annapolis Area Ministries Inc.
Annapolis Area Ministries operates the Light House out of the historic Charles Carroll House, which is owned by St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.
The shelter provides 12 beds and evening meals four nights a week to the homeless.
The group received zoning approval from the city last March to open a shelter on West Street at the former site of the Capitol Convenience Store.
That decision withstood a challenge to the city's Board of Appeals.
The Inner West Street Association and the Presidents Hill Community Association then filed suit in county Circuit Court seeking a reversal of the zoning approval. The community groups' attorney, Wayne T. Kosmerl, argued during a Nov. 8 hearing that the board inappropriately approved the shelter as a "philanthropic" institution. Kosmerl argued that the section of the city zoning code governing philanthropic organizations applied only to food service facilities, such as soup kitchens.
Kosmerl said the shelter should be considered a boarding house, which would not be allowed in an area zoned for "mixed use."
But Judge Wolff rejected Kosmerl's arguments, ruling Friday the shelter fit the definition of a philanthropic institution and would not be a boarding house because it would not charge for a room.
Kosmerl said yesterday he would consult with his clients and would decide within 30 days whether to appeal the ruling to the Maryland Court of Special Appeals.
Thompson, the Ministries' spokesman, said the shelter has voluntarily agreed to standards, including a prohibition against alcohol abusers, at the shelter. "We want to be good neighbors and have a clean operation," he said.