By Lynn Binnie
Whitewater Banner staff
In August, 2019 the City of Elkhorn Common Council denied, by a vote of 4-2, a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for New Beginnings APFV to convert a former Aurora Medical Center in downtown Elkhorn to offices for the organization and a small domestic violence shelter. There would be four small one or two-bedroom apartments for families in crisis. The Plan Commission had forwarded the application to the council without a recommendation for or against. Among the concerns that were expressed was insufficient parking, driveway length, and whether the proposal was appropriate for the zoning.
New Beginnings filed a lawsuit against the city, saying it had met the criteria and should receive a CUP. Circuit Court Judge Dan Johnson held a hearing on April 29 and ultimately ruled that the City Council did not provide a factual basis for the denial. The judge told the city to reconsider its decision based on the established record.
New Beginnings issued a press release on June 19 encouraging supporters of the proposal to contact the councilmembers. Suzi Schoenhoft, Current Executive Director and Heidi Lloyd, Previous Executive Director indicated that if the use was approved the building was going to be donated to New Beginnings. The release indicated that “Domestic violence is on the rise. In grant year 2019, New Beginnings APFV helped 922 clients affected by domestic abuse, compared to 664 in 2018.” (Federal grant years run Oct. 1 through Sept. 30) It was stated that more than 800 people had signed a petition in support of the proposal.
New Beginnings’ website states that of their clients “in 2018, 62 families needed to relocate due to domestic violence. They were not safe in their own homes. The closest shelter for victims of domestic violence currently is 30-50 miles away, and rarely has openings for out-of-county persons.” Serving Walworth and Jefferson Counties, New Beginnings has an office at 143 W. Main Street in Whitewater. The organization provides a 24-hour hotline at (262) 723-4653.
On June 29 the City Council held a special meeting at which the CUP was approved by a vote of 4-2.
Recognizing that there will likely be considerable renovation expense to turn part of a medical clinic into small apartments, the Banner reached out to Executive Director Suzi Schoenhoft for comment regarding the projected expenses and funding sources for such work. Ms. Schoenhoft referred the Banner to the organization’s attorney, who has not returned the call as of this writing.