After nearly three hours of debate and discussion, the Tulsa Board of Adjustment said “no” to a local charity's proposal to build a new soup kitchen in the Pearl District.
The vote was close, 2 yes, 2 no, meaning Iron Gate’s application to build a $4 million soup kitchen at 3rd and Peoria was denied.
Board members said it was a hard decision because both sides had valid points.
Those against the location were concerned about wandering homeless people and crime, but Iron Gate said it remains optimistic and will find somewhere more welcoming.
More than 100 people packed the Board of Adjustment hearing - and the vast majority of them were against Iron Gate's proposed location.
Iron Gate said the proposed location at Trinity Episcopal Church at 501 South Cincinnati would be perfect because many of their clients live nearby, and it's next to a Tulsa Transit bus stop.
In the end, however, the board sided with the opponents, like Pearl District Association President, Leanne Benton who said she didn’t think the soup kitchen was good for the Pearl District – or the City of Tulsa.
"I'm relieved. This has been a really long month dealing with this, with this request," she said.
Supporters like Carmelita Skeeter, the CEO of the Indian Health Care Resource Center, said it was a social service issue, not a location issue.
Benton said business and homeowners were concerned with vandalism, break-ins, trash and homeless people wandering around in their neighborhood.
But Iron Gate said the new building would have been designed in a way to avoid all that, big enough to keep hundreds of people inside while they waited for food.
The charity said the decision is disappointing, but members like Shane Saunders, remain optimistic.
“Hey, you have to be. It's a great city, philanthropic city. I've got a lot of hope we'll find the right location. This obviously isn't, I'm sorry we aren't welcome in the Pearl District, but we'll find another location," he said.
Iron Gate has been growing steadily in the past few years, feeding up to 900 people per day.
Opponents were quick to say they aren't against its mission, just their proposed location.
Benton said, "It is a needed organization, but I think there are better locations where we can partner with others and support others, and you don't have to have people walking, 78 percent of people walking to that location."
Had it been approved and built, the location would have been America's largest food-only soup kitchen.