Port Angeles council acts on religous housing for unhoused

PORT ANGELES — The Port Angeles City Council has voted unanimously to waive conditional use permit fees for religious organizations building temporary housing for homeless persons.

The council voted Tuesday on recommendations made by the city planning commission.

It also approved making no changes to its current municipal code at this time and directed city staff to streamline the permitting process by using a safety review checklist.

Staff members also are to formulate a comprehensive ordinance for supporting housing based on solutions implemented in other municipalities and bring it back to the council in March.

“Staff has worked proactively to make this process as simple, expedited and straightforward for any religious organization that wishes to establish temporary housing on their property,” said Norm Gollub, interim director for Community and Economic Development.

Choices offered

The city and planning commission went back and forth on four options presented to the council in September.

Option one, the one recommended and ultimately voted on by the council, took no action.

Option two, which will be explored in the coming months, was to amend Title 17 ordinance to designate the city conditional use permit as the procedure that best ensures the exercise of religious beliefs by its members and that they are not unduly burdened by the measures required by the city.

Option three was to pass a resolution regarding religious organizations hosting homeless shelters.

Finally, option four, which was also ultimately voted on by the council, was for the city to adopt an ordinance based on municipal codes from other cities and direct staff to review those codes and come back with recommendations.

“While staff has not suggested a change in the language as was suggested by the city council, staff finds there are currently two existing permitting pathways in which staff could assist religious organizations with providing temporary housing for unhoused people,” Gollub said.

“One is an administrative amendment to the religious organizations existing use permits, allowing for the use as proposed on the property in perpetuity or issue a temporary conditional use permit utilizing the safety checklist that identifies the location to be used for temporary housing for one year with the ability to request an extension not to exceed six months,” Gollub said.

Council member Lindsey Schromen-Wawrin moved to adopt the recommendations from the planning commission, saying he was happy with the solution that had been reached.

“I think we have come up with a proactive process that should be streamlined for religious organizations,” Schromen-Wawrin said.

Said Mayor Kate Dexter: “This is a good outcome of all the discussions we had and I am looking forward to future discussions that will allow for more community involvement.”

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Reporter Ken Park can be reached at kpark@peninsuladailynews.com.

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