County eyes shelter for veterans
Even as Clackamas County prepares the way for a temporary shelter for veterans without permanent housing, the public will have a couple of chances to weigh in on zoning-code changes to make it possible.
The site is at the south end of SE 115th Avenue, south of Highway 212, near the Fred Meyer distribution center in the Clackamas Industrial Area. It is owned by the Clackamas County Development Agency.
County commissioners gave the go-ahead Tuesday (June 27) for the Health, Housing and Human Services Department to negotiate terms with Catholic Charities, which will oversee the shelter. Half of the planned 30 units are to be completed by the end of the year; the other 15 will be built with the labor of the first residents.
The 2016-17 county budget set aside $300,000 for the project, which advocates concede will ease only a small part of the county's growing number of people without permanent housing. However, it is aimed at eliminating homelessness among veterans, who numbered 85 in the county's 2017 count back on Jan. 23.
Meanwhile, the Clackamas County Planning Commission spent two hours Monday (June 26) reviewing a new proposal to change the county's zoning and development ordinance to allow such shelters in light and general industrial zones.
No public testimony was heard — it was a study session — but the planning commission set July 10 for a public hearing.
County commissioners will hear the planning commission recommendation on Aug. 2.
In addition to Highway 212 in Clackamas, such industrial zones are along Highway 224 near Milwaukie, Johnson City; and McLoughlin Boulevard/Highway 99E south of Milwaukie. Shelters would not be allowed in industrial parks.
"These are challenging to site," said Jennifer Hughes, principal planner, who added that such shelters would meet resistance in residential neighborhoods.
Individual shelters would be limited to 200 square feet, and could not be vehicles, recreational trailers or manufactured homes. Bathrooms and kitchens would be centralized — not in individual shelters — and storage would be enclosed.
A bill just signed into law (HB 2737) directs the state Department of Consumer and Business Services to adopt building rules for small homes — defined as 600 square feet or less — by Jan. 1. The bill takes effect 90 days after the current legislative session ends.
The major change from a previous proposal May 22 is that only a county-approved provider — such as Catholic Charities for the proposed veterans' shelter — could apply for a conditional-use permit to operate a shelter.
"We have to trust other government agencies to do their jobs," planning commissioner Brian Pasko of Boring said. "This is clearly a pilot project. We have no idea whether it is going to work."
But planning commissioners still want to explore setting time limits, either one year after a shelter is discontinued, or on how long residents can stay in a shelter.
The usual practice is not to set time limits on conditional-use permits as long as the provider complies with the conditions laid out in the permit.
Chairman John Drentlaw of Lake Oswego restated his concern that a proliferation of shelters on industrial land would shrink the amount available for its intended purposes.
But Planning Commissioner Gail Holmes of West Linn said "no charity is going to want to keep this going" if the same people remain at the shelter for too long.
Planning Commissioner Mark Fitz of Damascus, who is a veteran, said he doubted whether veterans would want to remain in 200-square-foot quarters for longer than necessary.
Still, Pasko said, "my concern is that we are zoning for one project."