OS council OKs homeless shelter moratorium

  • Thu Nov 21st, 2019 11:30am
  • News

By Scott D. Johnston

For Grays Harbor News Group

The third time was the charm at the Ocean Shores City Council meeting Tuesday, Nov. 12, as the council unanimously approved a new version of a 180-day emergency moratorium against accepting any permit applications for homeless shelters and “all other similar land uses that provide social services to persons that are homeless.”

Two earlier attempts, at the April 22 and May 13 council meetings, received four votes in favor and three against. But because they were emergency ordinances, they required a majority plus one for approval, so both attempts failed. At the Nov. 12 meeting, council members Susan Conniry, Kathryn Sprigg and Steve Ensley all reversed their earlier no votes and the ordinance became law.

The need for the moratorium came to light, Mayor Crystal Dinger said, during an 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 told those present that 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.

The mayor later said, “I felt this is kind of a wakeup call that people may be wanting to do something and … we don’t have anything in place regarding how … we make sure we protect our city’s interests.”

Rushing spoke during public comment periods at both the April 22 and May 13 meetings. At the latter he threatened to sue the city if it attempts to derail his plans, which he did not spell out.

A public records request revealed that Rushing filed an Ocean Shores business license application on April 22, for “Ocean Shores Improvement Services,” to be located at 599 Ocean Shores Blvd. NW, near the south end of the beachfront hotel row. The application described the “nature of business” as “local services” and the “description of business” as “community services resources,” and sought exemption from licensing fees as a non-profit. The business did not turn up in a search of corporate registrations at the Washington Secretary of State’s online registry.

At the May 13 council meeting, City Attorney Brent Dille said that application had been denied as “incomplete” and noted that no structure exists at that address.

The City Planning Commission has been digging into the topic since then, and at an Oct. 8 council study session, presented preliminary findings and recommendations for allowing such facilities in two small zones in the north side of town. One is the portion of the B-1 zone (retail commercial) between Minard Avenue. NW on the east, Anchor Avenue on the west, Ocean Shores Boulevard on the north and Barnacle Street NW on the south. The second area is the part of the B-2 zone (general commercial) on either side of Seahorse Avenue between Shoal Street on the north and Chance a la Mer on the south. The planning commission will come back before the council, probably early next year, with a modified report.

The ordinance passed Nov. 12 reads, in part, “A moratorium is hereby imposed in all zones in the City of Ocean Shores with respect to the acceptance or processing of any and all land use or building applications or plans, or issuance of permits and approvals or licenses, and uses or activities associated with the operation of shelters, drop-in centers, tiny homes, and any and all other similar land uses that provide social services to persons that are homeless.” It requires that a public hearing be held within 60 days of passage.