The community conversation regarding a site for the men’s cold weather shelter and related social services continues.
The Corvallis City Council heard three presentations for possible locations for the services and heard from more than 30 residents in the community comments section.
The council ultimately adjourned after five-and-a-half hours Monday night but did not make a decision on which proposal to favor with the $60,000 that was approved June 18 for the operation of the men’s homeless shelter in the $157 million city budget for 2018-19.
The likely date for a decision is the council meetings scheduled for July 16, with Aug. 6 also a possibility. Also part of the mix is a July 10 Benton County Board of Commissioners meeting that will address whether the county chips in with $60,000.
But the clock is ticking. One of the presenters, Shawn Collins of the Housing Opportunities Action Council, was asked how further delays would affect his timelines.
"If we had a decision by July 16 ... I could probably make that work," Collins said. "After that it becomes tougher but not impossible. A lot of things would have to break right, and we're right up against our schedule right now."
A standing-room-only crowd of more than 300 people filled the Majestic Theatre and spilled out into the lobby, which had a video feed. The meeting was moved from the council’s usual downtown fire station location because of high interest in the topic.
Presenting were developer Rich Carone, engineer and downtown property owner Catherine Mater and HOAC project manager Collins. The HOAC is a coalition of city officials and nonprofits that is working to implement the city/county 10-year plan to address homelessness.
At issue is where to locate the men’s cold weather shelter, the Stone Soup meal service and the Corvallis Daytime Drop-in Center. The shelter was operated at the old Hanson Tire Factory building a year ago, with the other two services serving clients at area churches. On May 7, Collins and officials of the two other agencies announced plans to co-locate at a building at 545 SW Second St.
Opposition to the Second Street proposal, fueled mainly by concerns about the impact of the social service agencies on downtown businesses, led to the counterproposals from Carone and Mater.
Carone proposes to run this winter’s men’s shelter in a building on property off of Walnut Boulevard behind the Pepsi plant. The building would have to be remodeled for the season scheduled to begin Nov. 1. In year two, Carone hopes to have a new building ready for all three services, paid for by an investment group that includes himself and other unidentified investors. The pricetag is about $4 million.
Carone would use 2 acres of the 11-acre site, with hopes of developing the remainder of the land for low-income housing, perhaps using the “tiny house” model. Changing the use of the acreage would require city approval.
In a sign of how quickly things are changing on this issue, Carone’s original plan, published in the meeting packet, identified two possible sites in South Corvallis and an unnamed location in the north part of town.
Mater backs Carone’s plan for a permanent location on Walnut but offers the site of the former Flomatcher electronics manufacturing plant east of the Willamette River bridges as a one-year solution. One big challenge to using the site is that Linn County officials say the land is not zoned for social services use.
Public testimony, which followed two-hours and 13 minutes of presentations and councilor questions of Carone, Mater and Collins, was wide-ranging in scope. Some of those testifying favored one site or the other, with others offering more general comments.
Included among the speakers were several homeless individuals, whose voices had not been heard much in previous City Council discussions of the issue. One of the homeless speakers, Andrew Ross offered a detailed handout that featured some suggested proposals crafted by another speaker, Ronald Brown. Meanwhile, David Jackson, another homeless person, volunteered to help the city solve the problem.