Appeal filed against homeless shelter project

A proposed overnight homeless shelter has drawn criticism from neighbors.

A property owner is appealing Island County’s approval of a conditional use permit for a proposed overnight homeless shelter in Central Whidbey.

Langley-based Whidbey Homeless Coalition proposes to build a new home for The Haven shelter at a former Jehovah’s Witness church on Morris Road near Coupeville. The emergency shelter currently runs out of Oak Harbor churches on a rotating basis.

The county’s planning department conducted a site plan review and approved the coalition’s proposal with conditions in December. The staff report states that the coalition’s plan is to develop the property in two phases. The first phase would allow up to 12 guests. The second phase, which would require additional permitting, would allow up to 30 guests.

The coalition was awarded a $415,000 shelter grant from the state Department of Commerce to purchase the building and property. The grant was passed through Island County; the board of commissioners approved a contract with the coalition for the grant a year ago.

The project, however, has drawn criticism from neighbors who feel that the rural location on just under two acres isn’t an appropriate place for the shelter. Well over 300 people signed a petition against the proposed shelter.

After the site plan was approved, Kyle Green filed an appeal with the county hearing examiner, claiming that the decision was arbitrary, capricious and contrary to law. He writes that he is a co-owner of a property 0.9 miles away from the project.

In a Jan. 3 letter on behalf of Green, Reid Shockey of Shockey Planning Group further clarifies the reasons for the appeal. He argues that the analysis of the impacts of the project should have been for the ultimate buildout of a facility for 30 occupants. The letter states that the county was wrong in finding that a the project was exempt from a review under the State Environmental Policy Act.

Also, Shockey points out that the decision was mislabeled as a “staff report and recommendation.” The letter argues that the property isn’t large enough for the use and that county staff had misapplied county code.

In addition, Shockey writes that the commissioners’ actions to assist with funding the project “taints” the permitting process and that the hearing examiner is needed to ensure objectivity.

County Hearing Examiner Andrew Reeves will hold an open record appeal hearing at 9 a.m. on Feb. 28.