The Elkhorn City Council must reconsider a proposed domestic violence shelter it rejected last summer after a Walworth County judge on Wednesday criticized how the council gathered and used evidence, court records show.
The project now returns to the council, which cited measurement and zoning details before voting 4-2 last August to deny a request to open the shelter in the former Aurora medical building at 20 N. Church St.
New Beginnings APFV, which is trying to open the county's only domestic violence shelter, sued the city Oct. 23 and said the council's reasons for denying the project were “arbitrary and unreasonable.”
During the August meeting, council member Tim Shiroda said he measured the space at the proposed location and argued it did not have enough room for parking.
Representatives and supporters of the advocacy group appeared stunned at the debate over measurements and zoning, the latter of which was raised by council member Tom Myrin.
In an oral ruling, Judge Daniel Johnson admonished the council, saying it should not gather evidence in the way it did, according to online court records.
Johnson reversed the council’s decision, vacated the denial and called for a new decision, court records show.
Raymond Dall’Osto, the Milwaukee-based attorney representing New Beginnings, said he would like a chance to address concerns before the council votes again.
But ultimately, he told The Gazette on Thursday, the ball is in the city’s court. He said Johnson didn’t want to micromanage how the council operated.
So, while it’s not immediately clear when the council will review the matter again, Dall’Osto said his side is willing to work with the city if it wants new presentations or information.
“We want to make it work,” he said.
Daniel O'Callaghan, who represented the city, said a transcript of Wednesday’s hearing would help the council in its decision.
Dall’Osto called Johnson’s ruling a “victory” for New Beginnings.
He said such a shelter is necessary, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when quarantining might lead to more domestic incidents.
This story was updated at 1:43 p.m. Thursday with comments from an attorney for New Beginnings.