Council OKs moratorium on homeless facilities — likely won’t derail OS Food Bank expansion plans

  • Thu May 2nd, 2019 11:00am
  • News

By Scott D. Johnston

By a 4-3 vote at the April 22 meeting, the Ocean Shores City Council approved a 180-day moratorium the freezes possible new projects that would involve service to the homeless and require some form of city approval, giving the city time to develop relevant regulations, particularly involving lands uses and building codes.

Two of the council members who voted no, Susan Conniry and Kathryn Sprigg, voiced concerns that the broad wording of the measure could inadvertently ensnare the Ocean Shores Food Bank and delay or derail their effort to find a new, larger location.

However, after meeting Friday with Mayor Crystal Dingler, Food Bank Executive Director Sandra Harley, when asked if the project would go forward, said, “I think so. There may be a little delay, but I felt pretty comfortable that we will be allowed to build on that land.”

That land refers to a 25,000 sq. ft. chunk of the property that surrounds the Galilean Lutheran Church at 842 Ocean Shores Blvd. NW.

Harley explained that, “we’ve been pulling our hair out,” through a year of searching unsuccessfully for land that could accommodate a 5,000 sq. ft. building and offer adequate parking in an appropriate location. “Then the Galilean approached us and said, ‘What about our back lot?’

After a purchase agreement was approved by the Food Bank’s board and the church’s council, the congregation voted in favor of the deal on Sunday, April 28.

Dingler said that there are several steps that will take place before any permit applications are made, including some involving state-mandated wetlands mitigation. Thus, “I honestly don’t think this (moratorium) will slow them down. I think we’ll be able to move relatively quickly.”

Noting that the City Council voted to send the overall issue to the City Planning Commission, Dingler said, “I would encourage the Planning Commission to make this a top priority so that we move through it as quickly as we can. Their summer was kind of open, and I think this would be a good thing for them to really focus on.”

Harley said the Food Bank’s former Executive Director, Leon Brauner, will speak to the Planning Commission at their next meeting on May 14.

Dingler said the need for the moratorium came to light during the April 4 presentation at the Ocean Shores Convention Center by Cassie Lentz of the Grays Harbor County Department of Public Health and Social Services, which was seeking public input into the county’s 10-Year Plan to End Homelessness. At that meeting, Woodinville resident James Rushing said he owns some commercial property in Ocean Shores and is working with a Seattle-based group to look into the possibility of building a homeless shelter here.

“Apparently, he’s got a piece of property next to the Polynesian (Resort on Ocean Shores Blvd.) that he wants to do some things with” that may involve “using homeless people” and providing them housing, Dingler said.

“I felt this is kind of a wakeup call that people may be wanting to do something and how we don’t have anything in place regarding how do we make sure we protect our city’s interests? The purpose of the whole thing is to protect our citizens and make sure that whatever happens takes place in a logical manner to protect as many people as we can.”

When asked at the City Council meeting about the effects of delaying a decision until the next meeting, May 13, City Attorney Bent Dille said until the council takes action, anybody can apply for a permit and it will have to be processed under existing regulations, which do not address homeless shelters or facilities.

Council members speaking in favor of the moratorium repeatedly said they are not opposed to helping the homeless, but want the city to have a voice in how it is handled. Council members Eric Noble, Lisa Griebel, Jon Martin and Bob Peterson voted in favor of the moratorium, while Conniry, Sprigg and Steve Ensley voted against it.