The Lincoln City Planning Commission settled on a 4-3 decision Tuesday night, approving the conditional use permit, which allows Communities Helping Addicts Negotiate Change Effectively (CHANCE) to operate a warming shelter in the North end of town.
CHANCE, which merged with the Lincoln City Warming Shelter earlier this year, submitted an application to operate an emergency overnight shelter from Dec. 1 through Feb. 28 when temperatures drop below 40 degrees or wind speeds exceed 50 mph. Their building, which is located at 4488 NE Devils Lake Blvd, has been operating during the daylight hours since September.
The Planning Commission has been mulling through public testimony both in favor of a warming shelter operation and against it. Submitting public comments were community members, property owners and local businesses, many citing concerns of increased illegal camping/trespassing, public defecation, general crime in the area and attracting individuals in need of mental health treatment.
CHANCE officials created a ‘mitigation plan’ in hopes of addressing some of these concerns. The plan included placing 16 cameras throughout the area, hiring more security and staff members overnight, offering addiction and mental health support, as well as notifying local law enforcement when the shelter is open overnight for increased patrol.
At the Dec. 3 meeting, the Planning Commission members voting against the permit and those voting for approval shared their thoughts on the application.
“I do believe we need a warming shelter… I also believe that most people who go to a warming shelter are down on their luck, not people you wouldn't want to have in your neighborhood,” Commission Member Lenny Nelson said. “I’m not opposed to this idea, I just don’t think we understand exactly what the applicant is actually proposing to do.”
Nelson believed the application they were reviewing was missing key elements or criteria. Commission Member Marci Baker argued that those concerns could be easily resolved.
“I think that what makes sense to me is to go through the criteria,” Baker said. “I think it’s going to benefit the community. If you look at it, there’s going to be 28 less people in the streets, there is shelter, there is security… I think it’s something our community absolutely needs. The criteria can be met.”
Other Planning Commission members noted that the issue they had was with the new location, not with the warming shelter itself. However, City Attorney Richard Appicello said that the location was not up for discussion, citing that they were voting on the operation of a warming shelter, as stated in the application.
“We’re tasked with balancing the adverse impacts to folks in the community against some of the positive contributions to the less fortunate in our community that benefit from a facility like this,” Commission Member Patti Kroen said. “We’ve listen to the community members… the proponents of this action and I don’t doubt the sincerity of either side.
"It’s a problem in Lincoln City, a problem in Oregon and a problem in the United States. It’s not going to go away.”
Kroen agreed that the application submitted could have been better organized, such as the coordination issues between CHANCE and local law enforcement. The Planning Commission also noted that they considered families and children who may be at risk because of the lack of a shelter facility. Ultimately, the Planning Commission ruled to approve the application to address a need in the community.
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