A zoning hang-up in The Van’s push to expand its operations won’t deter the homeless outreach nonprofit from finding a new home, founder Aaron Reddin says.
The Van began accepting donations on Monday, Dec. 3, to raise $35,000 to purchase and make repairs to a warehouse in South Little Rock on 2.5 acres, but Reddin said that on Friday, Dec. 7, he learned that the new warehouse was not correctly zoned for the nonprofit’s use.
Reddin began the process of obtaining a Little Rock business license Dec. 7. Up until that point, Reddin said he thought the warehouse The Van intended to purchase was zoned commercial, as he’d been told so by the seller. It was also listed by the county as a commercial property. But according to Reddin, when he visited the city of Little Rock’s planning and development department, he found that the warehouse was actually zoned as a residential property, and the nonprofit couldn’t operate there.
Reddin said he was told by Little Rock zoning officials that he had the option of applying to have the property rezoned, but he wouldn’t receive approval or denial on the application until at least March.
“We’re really not interested in a three-month process,” Reddin said. “There’s no guarantee that it’s worth our time and money to go through that process.”
Instead, Reddin said the nonprofit is shopping around for other potential warehouses, but it’s leaning toward using the money raised and any additional funds donated to the campaign, to construct a new metal building on a property near its current warehouse location. The Van’s currently operates out of a warehouse space at 8016 Faulkner Lake Road in North Little Rock.
The nonprofit has raised $28,620 toward its $35,000 goal, according to its website, as of 11:30 a.m. Friday, Dec. 14.
Reddin said he thinks the money raised would be very close to what they need for new construction, as he’s already gotten a quote from a local metal building company on the cost of a new structure. He says he still needs to get estimates on the cost of concrete, plumbing and electrical costs for a new building, but he thinks this route would allow the nonprofit to keep its monthly payment close to what it’s currently paying in rent.
“On the bright side of that, if it’s brand new, then you know you’re not dealing with any repairs for a number of years,” Reddin said.
Reddin says he plans to keep donors as informed as possible throughout this process. “We’ve got to be as responsible with our donors’ money as possible,” he said. “A whole lot of people have given a lot of money, and I want to make sure that we’re not even appearing to be deceiving them. … I don’t want anyone who’s given to this campaign already to feel like they have thrown their money at something and have no idea what’s happening with it.”
Though the process of getting a new warehouse space has been more difficult than he originally anticipated, Reddin said supporters of The Van have no need to worry about the future of the nonprofit’s operations.
“The Van is getting a new house one way or another,” he said.
To donate to The Van or keep track of its progress, visit HelpTheVan.org.