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Alma Planning Commission rejects a zoning change to allow teen immigrant housing

Plans involving a building that once housed a nursing home have hit a snag.
Published: Aug. 5, 2021 at 8:21 PM EDT
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ALMA, Mich. (WJRT) - (8/5/2021) - Plans to house undocumented minors in an unused, former nursing home have hit a snag in Alma.

It’s an update on a story we’ve been following for the past month. It involves an empty facility that once housed Warwick Nursing Home.

Bethany Christian Services wants to turn the building into a temporary home for young teens who crossed the border without family.

A second meeting for Alma’s Planning Commission was held to talk about what to do with the building.

The city and the planning commission would have to change zoning to allow Bethany Christian Services to take over the empty property and house young migrants, aged 12-17, who are fleeing their countries without a parent or adult.

That plan was met with a lot of resistance from people in Alma.

“Emails and phone calls that I’ve received and letters that we’ve received - and then sitting through a four hour public hearing - I don’t think we have that,” said Aeric Ripley, Alma Assistant City Manager.

The planning commission voted to turn down the zoning request with a vote of four to two.

ABC12 has spoken with Krista Stevens of Bethany Christian Services after last month’s meeting that saw hundreds of people gather to voice their opposition:

“I would just encourage the Alma community or truly anyone who’s listening to the information being shared about the shelter to ask questions, to lean into the conversation, to give us a phone call, to send us an email, to ask what the shelter is about and learn for themselves.”

Ripley says the proposal now goes to the city commission.

“They’ll have their own deliberation and they will vote too. It ultimately is a city commission vote because we are changing, amending a zoning ordinance.”

ABC 12 reached out to Bethany Christian Services but it didn’t have a comment.

The city commission could meet as early as later this month.

The federal government projects that by September, about 22,000 to 26,000 unaccompanied minors will arrive at the border each month and require federal care.

The project in Alma would house those unaccompanied teens while looking for relatives in the U.S. to take them in.

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