Clackamas County won't purchase Jennings Lodge motel
Clackamas County is ending its effort to purchase the Econo Lodge Motel on McLoughlin Boulevard as part of a regional project to turn metro-area motels into shelters for homeless individuals. Instead, the county will pivot to begin a due-dilligence process on purchasing a motel located in Estacada.
Last month, the Clackamas Board of County Commissioners directed county staff with the health, housing and human services (H3S) division to begin the due diligence process of vetting the property before potentially purchasing. A heated discussion between board members preceded their Dec. 15 vote in which Commissioners Paul Savas and Martha Schrader both abstained for separate reasons.
The property is currently leased by the county through April 2021 and is being used for the purpose of sheltering homeless people through the winter months. The county's effort would have made the facility a permanent asset.
Commissioners received an update earlier this week from H3S Director Richard Swift and Housing Director Jill Smith that purchasing and renovating the property would cost the county just under $165,000, which would have included replacing the entire roof of the building, remediating some exterior issues, replacing the hot water tank and other repairs.
"Because of these extensive costs, we feel that Project Turnkey funding is likely not the appropriate source to acquire the Econo Lodge," Smith said. "We do feel strongly that the neighborhood, based on community engagement that happened Friday (Jan. 15), is in overwhelming support. It was really inspiring to hear there were several folks who were homeless in the community who have been placed in permanent housing."
According to Smith, only two community members at last week's public engagement session were opposed to the county's efforts in regard to the Econo Lodge being used as a shelter.
Smith said that while Project Turnkey — which uses state dollars made available through the legislature — might not be the appropriate funding source at this time, the site and neighborhood are both areas the county should continue to invest in down the road.
Commissioner Sonya Fischer said she was able to tune in to last week's public engagement session and learned a lot about the views of the community near the Econo Lodge, 17330 S.E. McLoughlin Blvd., Jennings Lodge. Fischer said it would be worth all commissioners taking the time to listen to what neighbors had to say.
Smith notified the board that her office intends to pivot to perform due diligence on a different site — potentially the Red Fox Motel, 600 S.W. Beech Road in Estacada — for potential purchase by the county using Project Turnkey funds.
"This is a time-limited opportunity, so at the board's request we will be coming back in February during a policy session to discuss this further," Smith said.
Savas took a moment to rehash comments he made late in 2020 when this effort first came before the board in which he expressed frustration that placing a homeless shelter in an already impoverished area wasn't a smart planning move by the county. He was also frustrated that the original intent of the purchase was sold as being to help shelter victims of the destructive wildfires that ravaged rural parts of the county last fall. He called for greater clarity as this process moves forward.
In total, the legislature has earmarked $30 million for the Oregon Community Foundation to administer funds for the acquisition of motel/hotel properties in eight counties and tribal communities affected by the 2020 wildfires, and another $35 million for the rest of the state. According to the Oregon Community Foundation's website, the goal of the program is to purchase at least 500 units for high-needs populations such as veterans, people with disabilities, families, communities of color, people with serious mental illness, people experiencing chronic houselessness, people vulnerable to COVID-19 or diagnosed with the virus who need to quarantine or isolate, but survivors of the 2020 wildfires will be prioritized for support through the project.
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