At a City Council Study Session Monday night, members of the Ocean Shores Planning Commission presented an update on efforts to “develop policy and general procedures for issuing permits to an organization who wants to place a temporary or emergency shelter in the City of Ocean Shores to serve the homeless population.”
That comment is part of a set of draft documents the commission went through with council members, who had some preliminary questions and indicated they will have more as they pore over the materials and the background as explained by commission chairman Dan Bricker and member Don Westfall, at the meeting held at the Ocean Shores Convention Center.
About 40 members of the public were in attendance as Bricker explained that the Planning Commission developed recommendations for where to place homeless shelters, identified what an organization needs to submit with an application for a homeless shelter, developed criteria for review and approval of applications, and also developed draft municipal codes. The commission in the process of developing draft ordinances. All of it will eventually be considered by the city council.
The issue arose last April, when a non-resident property owner applied for a permit to build a homeless shelter at the south end of the series of hotels on Ocean Shores Blvd. The application was rejected for having insufficient information, but the city has no codes related to homeless facilities and services. Council eventually tasked the Planning Commission with looking at zoning as a partial means of regulating such, in light of court decisions that say a municipality cannot simply ban homeless shelters.
Westfall explained the commission has selected two areas in the north side of town for two types of facilities, daytime drop-in shelters and overnight shelters. One is the portion of the B-1 zone (Retail Commercial) between Minard Ave. NW on the east, Anchor Ave. on the west, Ocean Shores Blvd. on the north and Barnacle St. NW on the south. The second area is the part of the B-2 zone (General Commercial) on either side of Seahorse Ave. between Shoal St. on the north and Chance a la Mer on the south.
The commissioners also presented a lengthy list of recommended requirements, including adequate on-site lighting and waiting area, setback from “sensitive uses” such as schools, public parks and trails, the public library, licensed day care and pre-school facilities and special needs senior housing facilities, descriptions of the population served and the operator’s experience, a Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) plan, a Code of Conduct and a Safety and Security Plan.
They also recommended a pre-application meeting with appropriate city staff and an “Information Neighborhood Meeting.”
Reading from the draft document, Bricker explained that “the Planning Commission determined it was appropriate to provide an update to the City Council as a checkpoint. We want Council feedback on the direction and the status.”
Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler explained after the meeting that the topic will be put on a future council meeting agenda and that, ultimately, council will likely seek additional information or detail from the commission, and could seek information from additional sources as well.