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Shelter gets approval

Businesses, residents disappointed with decision

A Shelton city hearing examiner approved Community Lifeline’s request to expand the capacity of its downtown Shelton homeless shelter from 35 beds to 54.

In a decision released Monday, city Hearing Examiner Charlotte Archer approved the nonprofit’s request for an amendment to an existing conditional-use permit to expand its number of beds at 218 N. Third St.

The City of Shelton recommended approving the amendment, with eight conditions including having at least one trained staff member on site for every 15 patrons staying at the facility and coordinating with the city to maintain an ongoing count of available beds.

A similar request was rejected in June 2022 by Hearing Examiner Terrence McCarthy, who said expanding from 35 to 50 beds would “add gasoline to a fire” following complaints by neighbors about vandalism, open drug use, intimidation and trash.

But Archer’s decision noted that the nonprofit has “made operational improvements.”

The decision states “the presence of a shelter in this location since 1994, coupled with the recent effort by Community Lifeline to reduce impacts on the community — including but not limited to its active participation in the encampment sweep of Brewer Park, ongoing outreach to neighbors and increased security measures — support a finding that this proposed intensified use should be authorized. As one community member testified, recent improvements have resulted in a noticeable reduction in issues involving the clientele of Community Lifeline.”

The ruling also states that “additionally, approval of this conditional-use permit, on balance, is in the public interest. As evidence establishes, the presence of the shelter in this location — and the provision of sleeping accommodation for the unhoused community at this location — address the impacts of homelessness on this community. Limiting beds at the site below the site’s occupancy potential may act to keep more people on the street, sleeping in doorways, in alleys, in bushes, etc. and perpetuates the impacts on our residents and business community that are not patrons of the facility.”

The decision noted that Community Lifeline board of directors say the building is capable of accommodating the increased capacity with a “few minor accommodations,” without furthering expanding the building’s footprint.

A public hearing on the request was hosted Dec. 11 at the Shelton Civic Center. Andrew Reeves was the examiner at the hearing but is no longer employed by the city. Archer assumed his responsibilities, the decision noted.

Dean Jewett, a downtown business owner, spoke against granting the bed expansion at the Dec. 11 hearing.

“I find Community Lifeline’s increased occupancy disheartening to say the least,” he wrote following a query from the Journal on Tuesday. “Our city leaders used three different hearing examiners along with their ‘recommended approval’ to come to this conclusion. Why does this not surprise me?”

He added, “Their negative impact on the community and close neighbors is an embarrassment. They do not patrol the surrounding areas, nor do they pick up trash or items ‘stashed’ in the bushes or local business alcoves. They do not have an accurate system of reporting open beds to the city. They allow open drug use on their property. These and many other violations of their ‘conditional-use permit’ are often ignored. Where is their accountability to the community?”

Kristy Buck, who owns the John L. Scott Real Estate building a block from the shelter, also said she opposed the expansion at the Dec. 11 hearing.

“Of course, I’m disappointed in the ruling,” she wrote to the Journal. “Especially after so many of us voiced valid concerns over the very real issues we face every day having a downtown building. I appreciate the conditions but wonder who will be policing them and making sure those things are done. It would be nice to have sort of accountability path or maybe a review period to make sure that the conditions are working out and having the effect they are intended to have. I guess it remains to be seen if we just made the problem worse.”

Author Bio

Gordon Weeks, Reporter

Shelton-Mason County Journal & Belfair Herald

 

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