Neighbors file appeal against Freedom Works zoning decision

Some Dayton’s Bluff neighbors have filed an appeal against the city of St. Paul’s zoning decision that would allow Freedom Works, Inc., to move into a vacant former convent building at 869 Fifth St. E. Freedom Works is a ministry that provides housing, skills training, and religious programming for men who’ve recently been released from prison.

The organization was granted a conditional use permit by the zoning department on Friday, May 8.

The appeal, filed by nearby resident Heidi Burgstall, complains that Freedom Works didn’t meet with the Dayton’s Bluff Community Council prior to filing for the conditional use permit, and cites concerns about the impact of Freedom Works on surrounding real estate, as well as parking. The proposed new location for Freedom Works would be in a former convent building that sits next to Twin Cities Academy, the school building owned by Sacred Heart Church.

George Lang, executive director of Freedom Works, said the appeal was “pretty disappointing to find out about,” though he added there are other pressing matters to be addressed before Freedom Works can move forward with purchasing the building.

Lang noted there are a number of other hurdles before the organization could locate in the building, despite getting the OK from the city’s zoning department.

For one, there’s no signed purchase agreement between Freedom Works and Catholic Charities, which owns the building.

To complicate matters, Lang said Catholic Charities representatives told him there may be another bid on the building that could trump Freedom Works’ offer.

Lang notes Freedom Works hasn’t even done a full inspection of the building, since the agency is still in a “due diligence period.”

-- Patrick Larkin

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