Jefferson County looking at siting housing

Ordinance aims to help homeless

PORT TOWNSEND — Jefferson County is looking to establish an ordinance that would allow the development and siting of temporary housing facilities for homeless individuals and families in unincorporated parts of the county.

The action would repeal and replace an interim ordinance established last year.

The new ordinance proposes that these housing facilities would include all forms of temporary structures, from tents to RVs to tiny homes and communal structures.

“Tents must have a minimum separation of 10 feet from other tents or structures, including but not limited to RVs, tiny homes, and other buildings,” the proposed ordinance says. “If tents are made of fire-retardant material, they may have a minimum separation of five feet from each other or from other structures. Tiny homes, RVs, and buildings require a minimum separation of five feet. If the site has a mix of tents, RVs, and tiny homes, the most restrictive minimum separation between the two types applies.”

Jefferson County does not currently have any code requirements to address these types of facilities. However, the county enacted an interim ordinance last October, giving it temporary control to allow for the siting of such facilities.

Last November, the county’s Department of Community Development updated county commissioners on the progress it had made on the work plan outlined in section 13 of the original ordinance.

“During the interim ordinance period, County staff will study the issues concerning the establishment and operation of temporary homeless facilities,” the ordinance says. “Staff will prepare a draft ordinance with appropriate revisions to the County’s land use regulations on or before 180 days from the date of adoption; perform SEPA review of the draft ordinance on or before 240 days from the date of adoption, and conduct the public review process, including a public hearing before the County’s Planning Commission on or before 270 days from the date of adoption and a public hearing before County Board of Commissioners on or before 300 days from the date of adoption, in accordance with the public participation process required for amendments to the County’s development regulations.”

Following the update, commissioners weighed the benefits of extending the public participation in formulating the final ordinance and in doing so enacted a new ordinance, 08-1213-21, renewing interim control for another six months of public outreach to be completed by June 20.

“It’s pretty unique for our board to advocate for these kinds of facilities,” Commissioner Kate Dean said.

Should this ordinance be approved, it would be in effect for two years.

After that time, the DCD would return to the Planning Commission and the county to analyze the effectiveness of the ordinance and propose any necessary changes.

An area for these types of facilities has yet to be designated as the county intends to conduct a special meeting June 27 to allow for more public comment.

Affordable housing in Jefferson County has been on the decline since 2015, with the median value of homes doubling in that time, said Brent Butler, director of Community Development.

“It’s been the perfect storm of low inventory and high values, further exacerbated by the halt in evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic,” Butler said.

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

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