Aberdeen seeks temporary use permit for Michigan Street homeless camping site

The City of Aberdeen will hold a public hearing Sept. 25 to consider a 1-year temporary-use permit to allow for a longer-term homeless camping facility on property it is acquiring at the foot of South Michigan Street.

The Ad Hoc City Council Committee on Homeless Planning met Monday morning and is requesting the City Council set the meeting date at the City Council meeting Wednesday.

“Moving forward toward development of this site and to serve the immediate needs of the unsheltered, staff is recommending the City Council issue a temporary use permit for the term of one year for this purpose” at the property at 421 S. Michigan St.

At its Aug. 28 meeting, the City Council voted 8-3 to purchase the lot, which is near the recently-vacated River Camp property between the Chehalis River and State Street, for $60,000.

Mayor Erik Larson said the ad hoc committee considered several options for moving forward with a longer-term site to replace the temporary one set up next to City Hall. Larson said the use of temporary measures “provides some runway for going through the formal process without delaying the move into the winter when it would be more difficult and have potential negative impact on the people we are trying to serve.”

The public meeting request from the ad hoc committee to the City Council reads, in part, “The year-long time frame will give staff an opportunity to observe the use at the location and to work with our partner organizations to develop longer range alternatives for our housing needs. Staff is anticipating a need for future changes to the Zoning Code that will take into account the growing changes associated with our unsheltered population. The year-long temporary use permit will also give staff enough time to research and develop the language for the recommended code changes.”

Larson has said the Michigan Street property was good because of its proximity to social services and bus routes. As far as safety goes, the 31,000-square-foot property sits on the north side of the tracks, meaning residents and emergency responders won’t have to cross to reach it as they did at the old River Camp.

South side property

Also on the agenda Wednesday is the second reading of an ordinance prohibiting public access to the city-owned property “waterward of the South Side Levee for life safety, public safety, and public welfare reasons.”

The property on the south side of the Chehalis River has seen an increase in homeless camps since the River Camp was closed earlier this year. The parcel consists of just less than 16 acres. Larson told the City Council at the first reading that the prohibition of access would not impact the trail that is used by dog walkers and other recreational users.