Puyallup Herald

Last-minute amendments expand possible locations for homeless services in Puyallup — but not much

A map representing a zoning ordinance for homeless services shows the parcels in Puyallup that would allow drop-in or overnight homeless shelters to operate. October, 2018
A map representing a zoning ordinance for homeless services shows the parcels in Puyallup that would allow drop-in or overnight homeless shelters to operate. October, 2018 Courtesy

It’s official — Puyallup adopted regulations Tuesday night that predominantly restricts homeless-serving facilities to the northwest corner of the city.

The council passed the ordinance 5-2 after some last-minute amendments by Mayor John Palmer meant to clarify that some shelter proposals may be processed under a development agreement.

“The challenge for us is to find programs that work for the homeless ... but at the same time not create impacts in the community,” Palmer said Tuesday. “I think these regulations are a start to help us out in that regard.”

Under the ordinance, homeless-serving facilities would be permitted in the Limited Manufacturing zone and require a 1,000-foot buffer between the facilities and “sensitive uses,” such as residential-zoned parcels, schools, parks, trails, libraries, day cares, preschools and special-needs senior housing. The ordinance also allows homeless-service providers to enter into a development agreement with the city, and with Council approval, get relief from the 1,000-foot buffer.

Palmer’s amendments also would modify how the 1,000-foot setbacks are measured. The buffer does not apply across the Puyallup River, and the 1,000-foot setback starts at the edge of the facility, rather than the edge of the parcel on which the facility sits.

The amendments increased the number of available parcels from 17 to 41, or from 52 acres to 298 acres. Not all of the parcels shown on the map are whole parcels.

“I think this proposes a more reasonable approach,” Palmer said.

Not all council members were on board. Council members Julie Door and Robin Farris voted against the ordinance.

“This version of the map, in my opinion, does not add any viable options,” Door said.

The parcels shown in the ordinance are near the Fred Meyer distribution warehouse, the Puyallup Recreation Center and various car dealerships, such as CarMax. Many are either already developed or unlikely to be developed, said Farris.

“My mind says, ‘Why do we have zoning if none of the parcels can really be developed?’” Farris said. “I wouldn’t trust this council to approve a development agreement.”

Mixed reaction from residents

For years, residents have relayed their concerns and frustrations to the council about the impacts of the New Hope Resource Center, a drop-in center for those experiencing homelessness. Some people say the center at 414 Spring St. is the site of public health problems, theft and drug use.

New Hope executive director Paula Anderson did not respond to request for comment as of Wednesday afternoon. New Hope will not be required to move under the new ordinance unless it seeks a new location. In a Sept. 12 interview with The Herald, Anderson said there were no plans to move at the time.

In 2016, the City Council passed a moratorium temporarily preventing homeless-serving facilities from operating within city limits. The moratorium was meant to provide time for the council to adopt regulations regarding the facilities. At the time, there were none.

The moratorium was set to expire on Oct. 6 if the council did not pass zoning regulations.

Dozens of residents spoke at Tuesday’s council meeting, some for and others against the ordinance.

Those supporting the ordinance said it would finally do something to address safety concerns.

“We need the 1,000-foot buffer to keep our children safe,” Puyallup-area resident Patty Gratz said. “The majority of the people at New Hope that they attract do not want resources they offer.”

Those against the ordinance said it wouldn’t solve the larger problem of homelessness.

“It will instead make it harder for any new facilities to treat the underlying symptoms of those who experience homelessness,” said Puyallup resident David Torrey.

Deputy Mayor Tom Swanson said the ordinance wasn’t meant to solve the issue straight away but to provide ground rules for any new facilities.

“I want to make sure everybody is aware of what we are not doing today. What we are not doing today is solving the homeless problem,” he said. “The difficult work starts now.”

Allison Needles: 253-597-8507, @herald_allison