The city of Vancouver is just two weeks away from repealing and replacing its Human Services Facilities Siting ordinance. The city council unanimously approved what was labeled “Option B” to move forward toward a public hearing Monday evening.
The city plans to repeal the ordinance first implemented in 1991 not only because the language could spur discrimination lawsuits, but the ordinance also features spacing requirements that restrict where human service facilities can locate.
After more than 2 1/2 years, the council’s decision came down to two options put forth by the Vancouver Planning Commission.
“Option A” and “Option B” were essentially the same, save one key detail: required conditional use permits and performance standards.
The council was in favor of an ordinance without performance standards — and asked the planning commission to take a second look at its proposal earlier this year resulting in the two-pronged ordinance.
“We don’t usually bring you two different ordinances for you to choose from,” said Chad Eiken, community and economic development director.
Option A would have recategorized human service facilities and implemented performance standards for facilities including shelters, day centers and group meal services. A conditional use permit, and public review process, would also be required before facilities could move forward.
Option B features the same reclassification system allowing facilities to locate according to similar existing land uses, but doesn’t require conditional use permits or performance standards.
The latter option received support from service providers who spoke at Monday’s meeting.
“This (existing HSF) ordinance is indeed discriminatory and has no place in code here in the city of Vancouver in our diverse and growing community,” said Kate Budd, executive director of Council for the Homeless.
Option B, she said, creates a welcoming and inviting community for nonprofits.
“We are fortunate that nonprofit agencies in the city of Vancouver continue to step up and work to address the needs of people throughout the community,” she said.
Budd’s sentiments were echoed in the comments of Amy Reynolds, deputy director for Share, and Elizabeth Fitzgearld, a member of Share’s board.
“The concern of this ordinance is one of equity,” Fitzgearld said of the existing Human Services Facilities Siting ordinance.
Option B brings the city closest to equity, she added.
Two other Vancouver residents spoke Monday, but against the ordinance.
Eric Lambert, who’s on the board of the Rose Village neighborhood association, said he would rather the city delay taking action or just opt to keep the ordinance in place as is.
“The big concern here is that when these facilities start to go into these low-income neighborhoods, I am concerned they will further reduce property values,” Lambert said. Lower property values would encourage more facilities to locate in those areas, he added. “This is a negative feedback loop that really concerns me.”
Eiken said facilities would not be allowed to locate in residential zones, and although some commercial zones are next to residential areas, commercial zones also come with setback and buffering requirements.
A public hearing on the proposed ordinance is scheduled for Dec. 3.