GRANTS PASS – The Grants Pass City Council will reconsider proposed amendments to its municipal code allowing for the construction of transitional housing. Council members agreed at their Nov. 25 workshop to have the proposal return to them for action at a regular business meeting and directed staff members to adjust proposed changes for consideration based on Council input.
“I think it is imperative that we get moving on it,” said Councilor Valerie Lovelace before a motion from Councilor Dennis Roler advanced the reconsideration.
In question are various details regarding standards the Council wishes to adopt with regards to transitional housing development. A development proposed by Rogue Retreat seeks to build multiple transitional housing units on a property at 802 SW Foundry St. The proposed Foundry Village would follow the model established by Rogue Retreat with their Hope Village development in Medford.
In attendance at the workshop, Rogue Retreat Development Director Matt Vorderstrasse, answered a few questions about operations at Hope Village, but councilors were cautioned by City Attorney Mark Bartholomew against engaging in ex parte communication with Vorderstrasse regarding the proposed Foundry Village development.
Prior to leaving the dais, Vorderstrasse did clarify that residents of Hope Village remain in transitional housing an average of four months.
“There are no current (time) limits, but 4-6 months is the expected average,” said Voderstrasse.
The Medford facility serves approximately 35-40 adults. There are six toilets and four showers in a shared restroom building. Vorderstrasse says those facilities have proven “adequate at this time,” with no sanitation issues due to the rotating work schedules of the “villagers” residing there. There is no electricity provided to the dwelling units in Medford, but the Foundry Village plan seeks to add electrical service to the proposed units there, said Vorderstrasse.
Councilor Clint Scherf expressed his desire to see any proposed transitional housing units be equipped with full services.
“I don’t think a building is inhabitable unless it has full service. (Otherwise) you are providing a tool shed with a cot,” said Scherf.
Councilor Rick Riker inquired whether it was permissible for transitional housing units to be built without electrical or plumbing service. Building Official Ken Sandlin replied that state codes allowed local organizations to make the amendments they choose to address local needs.
“It’s one of the few areas we can amend (the codes) to alleviate local problems,” said Sandlin.
Several councilors expressed concerns regarding the number of toilets required to serve the number of residents proposed for a development, and the distance between dwelling units and sanitation facilities. In question was a proposal to change requirements from a distance of 500 feet, to a distance of 300 feet.
“Three hundred feet is the length of a football field,” said Councilor Tyler Flaming. “I think the sanitation needs to be something people can get to. The length of a football field isn’t reasonable,” he said.
Sandlin confirmed the Council can establish parameters with regards to the number of toilets and distance from dwellings. He said the ratio of one toilet to every 10 residents was currently the most restrictive standard.
In response to questions from Lovelace, Parks and Community Development Director Lora Glover confirmed transitional housing projects cannot be built in residential zones. In response to Roler’s questions, Glover indicated councilors can set their own time limits on residency as well.
Scherf also inquired about fire code requirements. Sandlin stated that proposed developments would still have to meet existing fire code regulations, “with several different paths available.”
The Council is expected to receive new proposed amendments for consideration at their regular meeting Wednesday, Dec. 18.
“The intent is to adopt the state ordinance, but we do have the caveat to amend the code as we foresee,” said Scherf.