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Sweetheart building back on market, soup kitchen future uncertain

By Faith Smith, KECI Reporter, fcronin@keci.com
Published On: Nov 19 2013 05:29:38 PM MST
Updated On: Nov 19 2013 10:44:17 PM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

An update on the controversy surrounding the future of the old Sweetheart Bakery building in Missoula -- residents have debated the future of the site for months.

A local nonprofit, Union Gospel Mission, was pushing to open a soup kitchen at the site, but some neighbors argued it's too close to residential neighborhoods.

That’s when the city approved an emergency ordinance saying no new soup kitchens or shelters for six months, giving city council members time to craft a permanent resolution.

It appears the debate is over now.  A sign outside the old Sweetheart Bakery lists the building as for sale or lease.  

NBC Montana called the listing agent Tuesday afternoon and confirmed the location is available.

Wednesday night at a city planning meeting, residents shared their thoughts on newly proposed regulations and the future of Union Gospel Mission's proposed soup kitchen.

“I don't understand the comment about how much a homeless shelter is needed in our neighborhood -- or another one, since we already have the Poverello going in,” said Missoula resident Candace Loskutoff.  

Lostutoff told the planning committee she understands Union Gospel Mission wants to help the homeless, but she feels they may be overreacting to the public’s concerns.

“I feel offended that the 3:16, or the Gospel Mission, feels so victimized,” she told city planners.  

Union Gospel Mission leaders argue they spent thousands planning to move to the old Sweetheart Bakery site, only to be stopped by the city council.

“That location on Broadway is where the need is,” said Union Gospel Mission board member Steve Jackson.  “How are we to go forward and be able to trust city council?”

At the meeting, planners also reviewed some of the proposed permanent regulations – including adding a buffer zone of 150 to 1,000 feet, depending on a charity's proximity to schools and other public facilities.

They could also require assistance programs to get a conditional use permit and be reviewed every year.

The regulations would not allow soup kitchens or homeless shelters to be built in a residential neighborhood, which strikes a nerve with some Missoula residents.

“Just because the westside doesn't want another shelter in our neighborhood doesn't mean we're against these people,” said Missoula resident Joann Conrad.   

“But are we the sacrificial lamb and we’re just supposed to be happy about that and just roll over and say 'See you later?’” said Jackson.   

 NBC Montana reached out to Union Gospel Mission's executive director.  Candace Day tells us she will not comment on what the group plans to do next.

Committee members hope to hand over a full soup kitchen/homeless shelter proposal to the city council by the end of January, before the current interim ordinance expires in March.

To review the proposed regulations in full, click here.