Housing village has two options

Pathways include public facility or purpose

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is exploring two paths to developing permanent supportive housing at the Caswell-Brown Village.

Brent Butler, the county’s director of Community Development, outlined the pathways Monday before the Board of Jefferson County Commissioners that would require a Type III or Type V process.

One would designate the facility as an essential public facility, granting the county a wide latitude for siting facilities on the property that are typically difficult to site and opening it up for multiple uses, such as group homes, inpatient facilities and secured community transition facilities.

“They do not necessarily include all public facilities or services; they may be, but are not necessarily, publicly owned,” Butler said.

That would require a Type V process, which means the county commissioners would have the final say on the development.

Jefferson County currently has two essential public facilities, Jefferson County International Airport and Jefferson County Waste Management.

“Should the county deem permanent supportive housing an essential public service, then the county could assign essential public facilities as a zoning overlay for Caswell-Brown Village and other areas,” Butler said. “This process involves either the special use permitting process or an amendment to the United Development Code, Title 18, and the Comprehensive Plan.”

The second path would designate the property as a public purpose facility, making it a Type III pathway, which would require approval from the county hearing examiner.

The Jefferson County code defines public purpose facilities as lands and facilities needed to provide the full range of services to the public provided by the government, substantially funded by the government, contracted for by the government, or provided by private entities to meet public service obligations.

The Caswell-Brown Village is named after John Caswell and Victoria Brown.

Casewell, 62, was an unhoused man who died after he was exposed to the elements during the last summer’s heat wave. Victoria Brown, 23 died outside of her home at the Jefferson County fairgrounds from an overdose last winter.

The village was established last fall and currently allows for at least 20 people to camp at the site, which is run by Olympic Community Action Programs (OlyCAP).

OlyCAP wants to expand it by adding septic, water and electrical services, allowing for at least 50 people, including families with children, to have a safe place to live.

“There is an understanding that, for some of these folks, they will never be able to transition out of the area and need a more permanent solution,” said Cherish Cronmiller, executive director for OlyCAP.

Planning Manager Josh Peters said the determination of the appropriate permit process will be made as the project moves forward for consideration.

“If and when a land use application is filed with our office, the Unified Development Code (UDC) administrator will make a determination about the appropriate permit path for this ‘unnamed’ use, per our standard process,” Peters said. “Alternatively, the county could ask DCD to work on amendments to the UDC that would be specific to siting a permanent housing facility. During today’s workshop, the board did not indicate an intention to seek UDC amendments to that effect.”

While county staff has not developed a recommendation yet, Commissioner Greg Brotherton voiced support for the Type V process — an essential public facility — should it go forward.

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached by email at [email protected]

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