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Shelter's zoning plea is denied

Wearing a T-shirt with the words "property of Jesus," the Rev. Gary Haines asked the County Commission on Tuesday to waive permit and impact fees for his homeless shelter. Haines told commissioners he spends all his money feeding and housing homeless people in his mobile home in Homosassa. "I don't have it to pay for the impact fees," he said.

But the County Commission turned down his request, saying he needed to comply with the rules of the county.

"Your aims are great," said Commissioner Wayne Weaver, "but I do have a problem with not complying with regulations."

County inspectors cited Haines last month for having two mobile homes on his property and operating a shelter without zoning approval.

"One of the reasons we have fees for permits is for inspections," said Commissioner Skip Hudson. "We need to know there are proper sanitary facilities, that your electrical (system) is hooked up. We need to make sure the conditions these people live in are adequate."

Hudson suggested that Haines hold a fund-raiser to collect donations to pay the fees, which could be more than $4,000 for two mobile homes and a log-house Haines wants to construct.

"Will you help?" Haines asked.

"Yes, we'll help," Hudson said, then added, "I don't know whether you're legitimate."

For about 45 minutes, commissioners questioned Haines about his operation, called Adult Children Temporary Shelters Inc. (ACTS).

Commissioner Hank Cohen, citing news reports that Haines' shelters in Iowa were cited for unsanitary conditions, said ACTS did not seem to have a very good track record.

But Haines said he had distributed 1-million pounds of food to the needy and housed 10,000 people while he was in Iowa. Haines said he prompted the government to begin its program of distributing surplus cheese.

Haines said he had been praised in the Congressional Record. "Getting into the Congressional Record is not the hardest thing in the world," Cohen said.

Inverness resident Cynthia Cino chided the commission for not helping ACTS. "I believe in zoning laws, but I've also seen them bent for the guy with the big wallet," she said.

In a separate hearing, Hernando resident John Shackelford asked the commission for help in assisting low-income and medically needy people, particularly those who earn too much to qualify for government assistance.

Shackelford said the county needs to help assess the dimensions of the problem and find the money for helping those in need.

Weaver said that in Citrus County, the United Way, Citrus United Basket, the Salvation Army, Daystar Life Center, Citrus County Abuse Shelter Association and the St. Vincent de Paul Society help low-income people. "I'm delighted with what the county has done," he said.

The commission suggested Shackelford meet with Jane Harling, the county director of community services, to find out what programs are in place.

In other business Tuesday, the commission voted to place a street light at U.S. 41 and Inverness Boulevard. Though county staff said the light was not needed and there had been no accidents there in the past year, Bill Gilkes appeared before the commission three times asking that it be installed.

"We're talking about spending 13 bucks a months," Hudson said. "Anyone who has been that persistent deserves to have something done."

Cohen and Wilbur Langley voted against Hudson's motion.