Planners won't exempt Centro Latino

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By Brent Schanding

Non-profit agencies are subject to the same regulations as industries, businesses and private citizens, Triple S Planning and Zoning commissioners agreed Tuesday, in a ruling that offered no exemptions to a local Hispanic advocacy group.

Zoning commissioners denied a fee waiver request by Centro Latino, which seeks to construct office and classroom space on East Main Street near the Coca-Cola Commons complex.

Harold Huber, Centro Latino's executive director, sought a waiver for what he expected to be at least $4,500 in planning and construction fees for the project.

Part of that project also calls for the creation of a food pantry, which would provide resources to those in need.

"They don't have to be Hispanic," Huber said. "We'd hope you'd be lenient on us and waive those fees."

Centro Latino, a Shelbyville-based non-profit Hispanic advocacy organization, with an annual budget of $67,059, serves a five-county area. Catholic Church of the Annunciation leaders and farmers founded it. And because of its non-profit status, the agency would be hard-pressed to absorb hefty application fees, Huber said.

Triple S Executive Director Ryan Libke said while zoning regulations do not address exemptions of non-profit agencies -- including churches, charitable organizations or civic groups -- the commission could not play favorites.

"We haven't been asked before that I remember," Libke said. "Every place I've been, no matter who you are, you have to file an application and pay a fee."

Vic Brizendine, attorney for the commission, said that planners should not set a precedent to waive rules for non-profits, no matter the intentions.

"If Jewish Hospital Shelbyville wanted to double the size of their hospital would you waive the fee?" he asked.

JHS is a not-for-profit medical facility.

Libke estimated Tuesday that zoning costs for the Centro Latino building project would actually run less than $1,000 in development and variance fees. That would be a fraction of what the agency expected to pay.

Centro Latino leaders did not indicate a timetable for when the project would begin.