The city of Dayton has ordered a nonprofit in east Dayton to stop operating what officials say is an unauthorized food pantry that has been the source of some neighborhood complaints.
With God’s Grace, located at 622 Springfield St., has caused disruption in the neighborhood because long lines of people were forming outside its doors and visitors were parking haphazardly, said Dayton City Manager Shelley Dickstein.
City staff is working with the nonprofit to go through the process of bringing it into compliance with zoning regulations and have urged the owners to make improvements to provide a place for assembly and prevent lines outside.
With God’s Grace Executive Director Nicole Adkins said the city’s zoning administrator reviewed her plans last year and gave the OK to operate a limited use food pantry, which has seen longer lines because a devastating fire closed Food for Less, reducing food access in the area.
She said the nonprofit is comprised entirely of volunteers and does not have the money to pay for major changes to the building.
“Nobody gets paid in this organization — it is all volunteer, even myself,” she said. “Doing the upgrades that are needed is not feasible.”
Earlier this month, the city issued a notice to With God’s Grace saying it is violating zoning code because it does not have the required occupancy certificates.
The city’s notice said the nonprofit needs certificates to operate as a warehouse and storage facility and as a food pantry.
City officials say With God’s Grace needs to apply for a change in occupancy and get its plans approved by the Board of Zoning Appeals. Improvements are needed to upgrade the property from a warehouse to a place where people can assemble, officials said.
“Ultimately, we are trying to enhance the safety of the situation and have the property owner in compliance if they choose or desire to run a food pantry along with the warehouse,” said Dickstein.
But Adkins said last summer she shared her organization’s operational plans with Dayton Zoning Administrator Carl Daugherty, who she says gave them his blessing.
In a July e-mail to Adkins, Daugherty said he accepted the principal use of the Springfield Street property as a warehouse or storage facility and a food pantry would be an accessory use, according to the email.
However, Daugherty in the email says that “under no circumstances will persons be lined up outside the building awaiting entry.”
Adkins said at that time they only had a line outside at 10:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. when they opened.
But, she said, the number of families coming to get food surged to about 600, from 400, after Food for Less closed following a massive fire. Food for Less was located just a couple blocks away on the 3100 block of East Third Street.
Adkins said the pantry on Springfield Street is an accessory use because it is opened just once a week, while her organization operates a mobile food pantry multiple days each week.
Adkins said she believed the property was in compliance with zoning regulations because of what the zoning administrator told her.
Upgrading the warehouse to meet the standards of community centers, which pantries are considered, would be cost prohibitive, Adkins said.