Published: Tuesday, February 27, 2018 @ 6:45 PM
By: Cornelius Frolik - Staff Writer
— A popular food pantry in east Dayton that was violating the city’s zoning laws has been given a variance that will allow it to remain in operation.
With God’s Grace, a nonprofit that operates a mobile food pantry at locations across the Dayton region, also serves more than 600 families most Wednesdays out of its warehouse at 622 Springfield St.
Earlier this year, the city’s zoning administrator told the nonprofit it was in violation of zoning code because it was operating a food pantry in an industrial district that does not permit such uses.
But city staff and With God’s Grace worked together on a plan to address issues with parking and the long lines that formed outside the warehouse during pantry hours.
This evening, the Board of Zoning Appeals approved a variance with some conditions.
The decision allows With God’s Grace to continue distributing food in a section of the city that suffered a major blow to food access when the Food for Less was destroyed by fire last year.”
“There is a lot of need in the area,” said Nicole Adkins, executive director of With God’s Grace.
With God’s Grace has a warehouse on Springfield Street where it stores its food donations and keeps its administrative offices.
The nonprofit operates a mobile food pantry that visits local communities including West Dayton, Brookville, Miamisburg, Huber Heights and Xenia.
But the group also allows families to pick up food from its warehouse on Wednesday mornings and evenings.
The city notified With God’s Grace that it was violating zoning laws for allegedly running an “unauthorized” food pantry.
City officials said improvements were needed to upgrade the property from a warehouse to a place where people can assemble. Lines outside of the Springfield Street property generated complaints from neighbors about parking headaches and safety concerns.
With God’s Grace was at risk of having to find a new home if it could not distribute food to from its headquarters, officials said.
But the nonprofit, with the city’s input, blocked off the staging area to protect people waiting in line from cars, and new entry and exit points comply with zoning rules and have improved the flow of foot traffic, Adkins said.
Many community members strongly support With God’s Grace and asked the city to allow it to stay put.
A land use meeting earlier this month where the variance request was discussed attracted more than 100 people, and the citizens board ultimately vote unanimously to recommended the city’s zoning board approve the request.
Some community members tearfully shared stories about personal hardship and how their families have relied on the pantry to put food on the table.
Diane Roberts, of Huber Heights, said her husband is deceased and she lives with her three grandchildren and daughter, who had back surgery and suffered a heart attack.
“If it wasn’t for them giving extra food to us, my grandsons might eat but would never be full,” she said.