NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – Plans for a tiny-home community for the homeless moved forward Thursday.
Metro’s Board of Zoning Appeals voted that Open Table Nashville and Glencliff United Methodist Church are protected under state and federal religious laws, so their tiny-home community is too.
The religious freedom laws they’re protected under allow them to build the community while bypassing zoning ordinances.
Open Table Nashville wants to build 22 220-square-foot homes for the homeless on Glencliff United Methodist Church’s property in South Nashville.
The plans have been met with opposition, mostly from neighbors who live near the church.
But because Open Table isn’t a church itself, Councilman Mike Freeman believes the plans are not protected by religious statutes.
“This is not the church’s doing,” he told the Board of Zoning Appeals. “This is outside organizations who are renting their space and want this community.”
Risa McAlister lives near Glencliff and her mom belongs to the church. She agrees with Freeman.
“My biggest concern is safety,” McAlister told News 2. “We don’t know who’s going into these homes; we don’t know where they’re from, what their backgrounds are.”
Ingrid McIntyre is the co-founder of Open Table Nashville. She said there will be private security and each person will be vetted. Plus, she believes both Open Table and Glencliff are within their rights to build this community.
“We’re well within the bounds of the religious freedom laws,” she told News 2. “It does make me sad that it has caused some divisiveness, but that’s what we are called to do to – work with people who have been pushed to the margins.”
The meeting was so important to those both for and against the proposal that both sides hired lawyers.
In the end, the board voted in favor of Open Table Nashville and Glencliff 5 to 2.
Opponents say they will keep fighting the plans. Open Table hopes to break ground on the project in July.