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READING, Pa. – Hope Rescue Mission's plans for a shelter for women and children, to be located at 645 North Sixth Street, inched forward Tuesday night, when the Reading Planning Commission approved a 90-day extension to the project's review time frame.

The extension moved the deadline from Dec. 23 to March 23, 2020. The planning commission, however, denied a preliminary plan approval because the project had not yet been approved by the city's public works department.

Because the mission hopes to begin fundraising early in 2020, sympathetic commission members and representatives of the mission tried hard to find a work-around. In the end, the planning commission believed that it did not have the authority to approve the preliminary plan until all legal requirements were met.

The proposed 25,000-square-foot shelter would have up to 40 rooms for homeless women and children. The rooms would have the flexibility to be enlarged by opening into adjacent rooms so that families with several children can stay together.

Program director Gwen Dedda said that although it will house families for up to six months, clients will not be made so comfortable in the environment that they will stop trying to move on with their lives.

The building is adjacent to the existing men's shelter, and Dedda said that no men will be allowed in the facility. She said the outside play area for children is secure and located at the opposite end of the building from the men's shelter.

Other business

The planning commission rejected a conditional use application for the addition of a fifth dwelling unit in a property at 1101 North Ninth Street, at the intersection with Robeson Street. The commission found that the building had inadequate parking and that the four existing dwelling units were below the minimum legal size of 550 square feet.

The planning commission also heard a conditional use application for a banquet hall at 50 North Fourth Street, in the Washington Towers apartment building.

Owner Abdul Malik said the banquet hall will be available Fridays and Saturdays from 5 p.m. to midnight. Renters will need to supply their own food, and no alcohol will be sold, Malik said.

Commissioner Ermete Raffaelli expressed concern about double parking on Washington Street blocking three lanes of through traffic.

The planning commission also agreed to a 90-day extension for the preliminary subdivision plan for Asian Spa, located at 912/914 Lancaster Avenue.