City Council Approves Contract Bringing Money To Shelter

Kristy Tallman

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting the board started the evening off approving the request for council action to approve a contract for personal services with the Community Services Consortium (CSC) to create new shelter capacity and provide rapid re-housing services to the unsheltered in Sweet Home.

The request was submitted by Cecily Hope Pretty, Administrative Services Director and was reviewed by Kelcey Young, City Manager.

The city doesn’t have adequate funding within its budget so entering into this contract will enable the city to construct additional resources to provide housing, services and support for the unsheltered people of Sweet Home and its surrounding areas.

In March 2023, Young declared a state of emergency based on the homeless population surpassing the city’s resources. Due to this state of emergency the city qualifies for state funding. The intention of this contract is to build shelters more geared toward families and to offer support to the city on a variety of services.

“We addressed the homelessness problem that we were aware of and the FAC was ready to cover that with the number of people we thought we had coming in. What we discovered was that, it was like peeling back layers of an onion, there was a much bigger problem than we were aware of. That’s what prompted us to declare the state of emergency.” said Young.”

Once the contract is signed and put into action the city will receive a sum of $449,093 from state funded House Bill (HB5019) created by Governor Tina Kotek to address the needs of the state’s urgent housing crisis.

Young said “The money is to primarily fund emergency housing and shelter for families because that is one area that Sweet Home doesn’t have.”

The CSC was established in 1980 seeking to end poverty in Linn, Benton and Lincoln Counties by assisting residents to access tools and resources to overcome poverty. They partner with service organizations, healthcare providers, faith based organizations, government entities and other organizations to support shelters, housing, emergency services and additional community resources. It’s through the partnership with CSC that the city will be able to begin the process of collecting the funding needed to accomplish their goals.

There’s still a lot for us to do,” admits Young, “but we have made a lot of progress.”

Young says they have other cities coming to see the work the city has done, even using Sweet Home as a model for their localities. “In a lot of ways,” Young stated, “Sweet Home is ahead of other cities in our accomplishments.”

Currently they are working on a budget and several other things they will be presenting to the council down the road. They will have their first goal setting meeting in February. Young has asked the council to bring forth their top five priority projects they would like to see done over the next year.

“I’m excited because goal setting starts shaping our budget and that shapes what we will be doing for the next little while. We won’t be able to do 35 projects,” Young said, but she encouraged the council to pool together their ideas and decide on their top five priorities.

The Council voted six aye, and one absent to approve the personal services contract with CSC.

In Other Business

During the public hearing session of the meeting, the Small Municipalities Advocacy Coalition presentation that was to be given by Shawn Tate was tabled until the next city council meeting due to him being unable to attend the meeting.

In the old business portion of the meeting the council were slotted to handle a request for council action by the Park and Tree Committee on the applications presented for naming publicly owned facilities. This is in regards to the Pocket Parks project.

The parks the city has put forth applications for naming are: the pocket park at 10th Avenue and Elm Street and the pocket park at 12th Avenue and Nandina Street.

The policy for naming parks requires a public hearing; it also specifies a time period from the time when the council places an ad to the time when the hearing is scheduled. The committee did not follow that policy. They did not allow for enough time to lapse between issuing the ad and the hearing date so the item was tabled until the next meeting.

Zoning Amendment

Approval Sought

A request for council action was presented regarding Zone Map Amendment Application ZMA23-03 requesting a decision for approval be made and to conduct a first reading of the ordinance. The request is to change the zoning from a residential low density (R1) to a high density residential (R3).

The subject property is generally located southeast of Long Street and 29th Avenue intersection and is identified by Linn County Tax Assessor Map No. Township 135, Range 1E, Section 32AC, Tax Lot 4900. The listed property owners are 4L Ventures LLC and Evan Latimer of Lebanon.

At the last council meeting they opened up the floor to public comments but a vote on the amendment wasn’t done. The public hearing heard those in favor and those opposed.

Also the staff report was read in.

According to state law the council has to inform the applicant Laura Laroque, UDell Engineering and Land Surveying, LLC within 120 days of their final decision. They requested the council put the amendment back on the agenda. The council agreed.

In the discussion session there were two items brought up regarding the rezoning which brought concern. The factors in question were transportation and the safety of school children and the capacity of the school district in that area to accommodate the population increase the rezoning could create.

It has been reported that Hawthorne has the capacity and could accommodate the increase in children in the event of the most dense numbers for an R3 area.

In an email presented to the council from Kevin Strong, business manager for the Sweet Home School District, Strong said, “The Sweet Home School District redrew elementary boundary lines two years ago so Hawthorne Elementary School could accommodate additional growth. Hawthorne now has capacity for additional students.”

Transportation and safety codes require any development that is based on a zone change to have a traffic impact study done as part of the development. If this application is approved and the applicant brings forward an application for the development of R3 housing it will require a Traffic Impact Study to verify that all the streets in the area have sufficient capacity and if they do not have sufficient capacity that study would indicate what improvements are necessary to serve the added population in that area.

Another element that was brought up was regarding safety, the developers would be required to complete the sidewalk at the intersection. Currently the east side has not been completed. This would allow children walking to Hawthorne added safety. It would also give them the option of taking a path that would not require them to cross the street.

The application doesn’t include any specific development plans. R3 is a high density housing zone, however there is quite a variety of housing that falls under this designation. It could include duplexes, townhomes, cottage clusters or apartment buildings.

There’s not a requirement for the applicant to specify what type of development they would pursue. According to the council the developers are still weighing their options.

Last year the city did a housing needs analysis that would predict the population growth over the next two decades. The conclusion of that analysis projects that if the population growth continues at the same rate the city will have to have at least 630 new housing units to meet the demand that the projected population growth would require.

“We don’t know what to expect when it comes to population. New employers coming to town can have a drastic change in population just like the lack of housing or opportunities in other cities can also have a drastic change effect on housing in our area. The need for 630 units is a very conservative estimate and feels they will be likely to need more” said SH Community and economic director, Blair Larsen. “The planning commission did recommend passing the rezoning amendment,” he added.

All voted in favor for the amendment to pass but for Counselor Richards who voted no. The final vote was five aye, one nay, one absent.

New Business and

New Committees

During the new business of the council meeting there was also a resolution to adopt the first public art program policy for the city of Sweet Home. Currently the city has an ad hoc committee on arts and culture. Lately quite a few items have been moving forward and that committee recommended policies and guidelines to govern acquisition retention. These were brought to the council for approval. The council approved setting up basic guidance following any type of projects like mural projects, sculptures or other like projects. The vote was sixaye, one absent.

The council also voted to codify the Community Health Committee. This would make the ad hoc committee a permanent committee within the bylaws. This would allow for setting up the guidelines and structure for that committee. It also includes a resolution to make permanent the stipend of $1000 usually given annually to the committee to support the community health care needs. It will be one of the few codified committees within the city.

The Council Shared

Their Gratitude

During the reporting portion of the meeting, city manager Kelcey Young thanked the committee, the first responders, the public works and residents for all their efforts during the storm. She spoke of the Jim Riggs Center being opened for shelter and the efforts made by staff to ensure the center was operational in less than six hours when the need arose.

Mayor Susan Coleman also spoke of the phenomenal efforts by city staff but she also pointed out the kindness of neighbors she saw throughout the storm. Furthermore during the directors reports more of the same gratitude was given.

“I just also want to say I think Sweet Home shines in “neighbors helping neighbors” all over the place,” Coleman told of a person calling into the city asking what they could do to help and how they actually sent that caller to help another caller they couldn’t help. “But just to know that neighbors were helping each other out,” she explained, “I know it was a dicey situation.”

She thanked all who worked during the storm to keep SH going “I appreciate Pacific Power and all the work that they have done, the fire department, police department and the public works. Just thank you guys for all that you did but neighbors were also helping each other out. I appreciate seeing that.”

City Council meets the 2nd and 4th Tuesday of each month at 6:30 PM at the Sweet Home City Hall.