PLACERVILLE, CA - Organizers of a church serving the homeless vow to remain open even though the city planning commission denied them a permit.
The Mercy Way Rescue Church opened last month in a former bus station at the eastern end of Placerville in an area zoned for commercial businesses.
In addition to Wednesday and Sunday church services, the building serves as a hub for the homeless to gather every evening in the winter months to be driven to other local shelters.
Church organizers applied for a conditional use permit after the fact.
Despite a staff report recommending approval, the planning commission rejected the permit with a tie vote Dec. 4.
Critics say it's a homeless shelter masquerading as a church.
"I'm completely befuddled by what you're actually doing," said Brian Briggs, one of the two commissioners voting against the permit.
Mercy Way board member Michael Parr defends the activities taking place at the church.
"I think more attention was focused on the word 'homeless' than on the fact that we are a house of worship," Parr said.
Placerville officials said city bylaws require a tie vote by the planning commission to be automatically heard by the city council.
The council will consider the Mercy Way application at its Jan. 8 meeting.
Frank Gates, one of two pastors at Mercy Way, said worship services and other support for the homeless would continue with or without a permit from the city.
"We're a church. We do what churches do," he said.
by George Warren, GWarren@news10.net