County acts on homeless housing

Law not applicable at Port Townsend fairgrounds

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County commissioners have ratified an emergency ordinance to permit temporary housing for homeless residents.

The commissioners passed the emergency ordinance on Dec. 21 to allow for the construction of Peter’s Place, a temporary wooden tent village located on Faith Way in Port Hadlock. On Tuesday, they ratified it after a public hearing.

While the ordinance allows Peter’s Place to operate, it does not permit the homeless encampment at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds campground, said Patty Charnas, county director of community development.

The fairgrounds, while county property, is within Port Townsend city limits and falls under the city’s code, she said.

The county ordinance will be in effect through December and “contains a work plan so that time and staff resources can be spent on researching and developing options to address more permanent land use, zoning and building provisions, if such options are practicable and comply with state laws,” according to commission documents.

An emergency ordinance allows commissioners to approve an ordinance without public input with the caveat that they must hold a public hearing within 60 days of initial passing.

The temporary ordinance allows religious and qualified nonprofit entities to host temporary housing facilities to provide shelter for homeless individuals on land the organization owns, according to commission documents.

The temporary housing facilities are limited to 50 people. Each one must have a sponsor and management organization overseeing it.

The county also set limits on how close the encampments can be to commercial properties and residential homes, requiring at least 20 feet of buffer from property lines of commercial and multi-family residences and 40 feet from single- family homes, documents said.

District 2 Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour was glad to ratify the ordinance.

“I am inspired by the efforts of Peter’s Place,” she said. “I am profoundly inspired by the community and the display of kindness, passion and initiative that that effort required from the community.”

Board chair Kate Dean, the commissioner from District 1, said the ordinance aims to strike a balance between sheltering those who need it and impacts to residents.

“We recognize that our homeless neighbors need somewhere to go,” Dean said. “They have been on our streets, in our forests.

“This is at least an attempt to at least say we believe you deserve to have a place to be where we can provide services, where you can have basic utilities and create some stability to be able to find transitional housing in the future. Peter’s Place can be a model on how to do it well.”

The full discussion and ordinance can be found at https://tinyurl.com/PDN-TempHousing.

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Jefferson County reporter Zach Jablonski can be reached at 360-385-2335, ext. 5, or at [email protected].

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