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Feb. 5, 2023

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City of Vancouver sued over first Safe Stay location

Developer: Site in North Image blocks access to project

By , Columbian staff writer
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Development company Herontide II LLC filed a lawsuit earlier this week against the city of Vancouver, alleging the city’s North Image Safe Stay Community cuts off access for the company’s construction vehicles to reach its multifamily housing site nearby.

The housing project, at 5264 N.E. 121st Ave., was approved before the community came about, the complaint states.

Herontide II filed the suit in Clark County Superior Court, as well as a code enforcement action Monday.

“Herontide II LLC has no issue with the Safe Stay site, and we feel these sorts of living pod villages are a huge step in the right direction in helping house people in need with dignity,” Todd Locker, a representative for the company, said in a statement to the press. “But, we do not understand how, during a housing shortage, the city is essentially blocking our ability to build below market-rate housing that our community desperately needs.”

A representative from the Vancouver City Attorney’s Office did not immediately return a request for comment Friday.

The city operates two Safe Stay communities in Vancouver — the North Image location at 11400 N.E. 51st Circle and a second at 4915 E. Fourth Plain Blvd. A third community is being considered in downtown Vancouver. The first Safe Stay Community opened in December in North Image; it was built to house up to 40 people experiencing houselessness in 20 modular shelters.

According to the complaint, the city of Vancouver approved Herontide to construct 60 housing units in the North Image neighborhood, including use of Northeast 51st Circle for construction access. Herontide notified the city of its intention to develop the property in February 2020.

“The city contracted with the nonprofit, Outsiders Inn, to create the ‘Safe Stay’ Community directly in the right-of-way,” the complaint reads.

“As an alternative, Herontide II asked to drive across city land adjacent to Northeast 51st Circle along the bypass route to access the Herontide II property,” the complaint continues. “The city declined this request, stating that the use of the unpaved roads by construction vehicles would disturb the 20 tenants of the Safe Stay Community and result in negative environmental impacts.”

The complaint then alleges the city began driving its own large construction vehicles along this bypass route in July.

“This lawsuit is not an issue with the Safe Stay site. It is an issue with the city’s process and their lack of proper communication with neighboring businesses and residents,” Locker said. “Had the city simply listened to our concerns, access to our development site would not have been impeded and this lawsuit could have been avoided. It’s sad that we have to turn to the legal system for help.”