Jefferson County takes first step to buy land for homeless campground 

Posted 7/22/21

Jefferson County commissioners authorized a purchase-and-sale agreement this week for the potential acquisition of 30 acres on Mill Road which would be used as a campground for the homeless.

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Jefferson County takes first step to buy land for homeless campground 

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Jefferson County commissioners authorized a purchase-and-sale agreement this week for the potential acquisition of 30 acres on Mill Road which would be used as a campground for the homeless.

The land, made up of five parcels, is undeveloped. The selling price is $600,000.

More work needs to be done before a purchase is finalized, including an appraisal of the property.

The purchase also requires an additional approval from the board of county commissioners.

If the county eventually buys the land, officials plan to use grant money from the American Rescue Plan Act to pay for the property.

According to the purchase-and-sale agreement, the closing date for the sale has been set to expire Sept. 13.

County officials hope to create a homeless campground on the property, and shift the encampment currently at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds to the Mill Road property.

County commissioners are also still mulling the purchase of the former Jefferson Community School building.

That historic building, across the street from Memorial Athletic Field in Port Townsend, could be used for transitional supportive housing to serve families and individuals.

County commissioners gave an unanimous OK at their meeting Monday for County Administrator Mark McCauley to sign the purchase-and-sale agreement the property owner, Mill Road LLC.

County commissioners have considered a variety of locations as a new site for the homeless encampment at the fairgrounds, including to land owned by the Port of Port Townsend near the Jefferson County International Airport, county land in Cape George, county land near the sheriff's office on Elkins Road, and another privately-owned property near Mill Road near Port Townsend's southern end.

Officials have also looked at the potential purchase of other properties, including existing hotels in Port Townsend, as well as the former Jefferson Community School building, as locations for potential facilities to house the homeless.

Before the vote, Commissioner Heidi Eisenhour said the Mill Road property and the Jefferson Community School building were the two options that most appealed to her.

"I haven't deviated from those two ideas lately," Eisenhour said.

Commissioner Greg Brotherton noted the county had made a commitment to the board of the Jefferson County Fair Association to move the homeless encampment off the fairgrounds.

"I don't think we can go back on that," Brotherton said.

The county needs to begin work soon to be able to create a campground on the Mill Road land, he said.

"One way or the other, we have to get a clearing and grading contractor booked now so we can start doing that by the beginning of September," Brotherton said.

And if it doesn't happen at Mill Road, then it would likely be at the county's property in Cape George or Elkins Road, or possible on land owned by the Jefferson County PUD, he said.

The Elkins Road property, Brotherton added, lacks infrastructure.

"It's not going to be cheap to develop there," he said.

By contrast, the Mill Road property would be a good investment for the county because it's in a natural annexation path for he city of Port Townsend, Brotherton said.

While the price tag is large, the property is, as well.

County officials noted that means opportunities to put more than just a homeless campground on the land. Supportive services, and tiny homes, for example, could also be located there.

"It's a lot to spend for a campground, but it can be a lot more than a campground," Brotherton said. "I still think that's the most viable spot."

A signed purchase-and-sale agreement would prevent the Mill Road property from being purchased by another buyer, McCauley said.

"That property will be locked up as of today," he said.

Commissioner Kate Dean recalled hearing some concerns about the size of the expenditure, and that it would serve a small population of the homeless at the expense of other things.

"That's always going to be the case," Dean said.

McCauley, however, noted the use of the property could extend past the creation of a campground.

"It has development potential well beyond the campground," he said.

Dean noted that potential should be explored.

"I think we should be willing to look at a lot of different models for that piece of property," she said.

Comments

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Tom Thiersch

The former Jefferson Community School building is listed for sale by Michelle Sandoval, who is a member of the "Joint Oversight Board on Affordable Housing & Homeless Housing"; she also at times serves as chair of that board.

There is a clear conflict of interest, which she has acknowledged. BUT, rather than recusing herself, on June 23 Sandoval joined the rest of that board in a unanimous vote to spend public money to explore the public purchase of the former Jefferson Community School building for use as low-income / homeless housing.

No matter how small or large the amount, any participation in the process by a realtor who will profit from the transaction is highly problematic.

Refer to the state law, "Code of Ethics for Municipal Officers", at https://app.leg.wa.gov/RCW/default.aspx?cite=42.23&full=true which has been adopted by the City of Port Townsend.

"No municipal officer shall be beneficially interested, directly or indirectly, in any contract which may be made by, through or under the supervision of such officer, in whole or in part, or which may be made for the benefit of his or her office, or accept, directly or indirectly, any compensation, gratuity or reward in connection with such contract from any other person beneficially interested therein."

Friday, July 23
Mark Conrad

A one way bus ticket to Los Angeles CA is about $120. For about 60 people, that's only $7,200. That's a WHOLE lot less than $600,000. Greyhound might even give a group discount! On the other hand, I recall some movie a while back that kept harping on "If you build it, they will come"......Just saying.

Saturday, July 24