A local non-profit agency is a step closer to having a new home after action taken by the Monticello Planning and Zoning Board on Nov. 18.
A variance approved unanimously would allow A Small Hand – Piatt County Infant and Diaper Pantry and Piatt County Cares to move into city-owned property at 315 E. Center St..
The home was purchased by the city in 2012 to prepare for a possible expansion of the adjacent fire department, but that project has yet to materialize.
“Again, the building has not been put to use since 2012, and they’re in need of space. And with the municipal parking lot right there, it actually works out pretty well,” said City Community Development Director Callie Jo McFarland.
A Small Hand formed in 2013 to provide diapers and other infant supplies to families in need. Demand has grown to the point that 50,000 diapers have been distributed so far in 2019, according to founder and director Chris Sanantonio.
She added that a food pantry added in February of this year has served almost 1,000 individuals, about half of which are children.
Piatt County Cares is the portion of their programming that seeks to solve social and poverty issues in new ways.
The city is the actual applicant for the variance, needed for the non-residential use of the home.
“The organization would constitute an ‘Educational or Charitable Institution’ by definition, and is not allowed as a principal use in an Urban Residential Zone,” said McFarland.
“Given the nature of the organization, the location of the property, and the term of the lease (two years), the city is requesting a variance to this regulation, to allow the organization to utilize the property.”
She noted that the only regular hours for distribution to the public are on Fridays. Others times are by appointment only, typically in the event of emergencies.
Pending city council approval, Sanantonio hopes to be moved by the start of 2020.
“Our current lease is up at the end of December, so we hope to start working on cleaning the house and other things,” she told the PZB.
It also save the non-profit agency money, since it currently pays rent and would not in the new location. A Small Hand would be responsible for its own insurance, utilities and mantenance of the property.
“I think it’s a great use of the building,” said PZB Chairman Michael Hawkins.
Signage would be dictated by city ordinance. The organization currently has a sign that was made by Monticello High School industrial technology students that they hope can be moved to the new property.
PZB members voted 7-0 to recommend approval of the variance. The city council has the final say, and was scheduled to consider it at its Nov. 25 meeting.