UTICA — Renovations at the former Utica Elementary School will continue for now, but for how long remains uncertain.
Town officials last week failed to grant a request from residents to impose a stop-work order on renovations being done at the site by the group Jacob’s Well. Instead, the town’s planning and zoning board tabled the request with the hope that a judge’s ruling in a pending lawsuit regarding the property will make it unnecessary for the board to have to take its own action in regards to the project that aims to rehab the facility into the House of Hope — a transitional housing facility for single mothers and their children.
In the meantime, however, Jacob’s Well representatives and residents opposed to the project appear to be firmly planted in their respective opinions that they’re on the right side of what has become a heated debate in the small town.
Jacob’s Well is a faith-based ministry group with a mission to educate and help single women and mothers become self-sufficient. The group’s objective is to build the House of Hope at the former Utica Elementary School site, which it has been rehabbing since 2011. Jacob’s Well founders Barbara and Kevin Williar have said the House of Hope would provide living quarters for a small number of single mothers and their children while they completed educational, occupational and spiritual guidance aimed at helping them become more self-sufficient.
But a group opposed to the project said while the objective of Jacob’s Well is admirable, the town’s old school building is not the place to carry out such a mission.
To start, opponents of the project claimed nothing has been presented at a public meeting proving that Jacob’s Well has attained the proper permits to carry out renovations at the site.