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Council Studies Shelter Placement Zoning
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With the required state obligation for a “Housing Element” within the city’s General Plan, the Oakdale City Council on Monday, May 18 debated areas within the six-square mile town appropriate for various housing needs including in which zones a homeless shelter could be located.

Housing Services Coordinator Lourdes Barragan told the council that the city’s General Plan must include identification and analysis of existing and projected housing needs as well as policies and programs for adequate housing for all economic segments of the community.

Oakdale is required by state law to incorporate into the Housing Element an inventory of land sufficient to accommodate residential development for all income groups.

Public Services Director Thom Clark proposed amending the zoning code to permit emergency shelters in districts designated multiple family residential, neighborhood commercial and limited industrial.

The code would also be amended to allow employee housing for six or less persons in single-family residential zones and in agricultural zones, no more than 12 units or 36 beds to be permitted.

During discussion, Mayor Pat Paul asked what exactly “emergency shelters” covered, clarifying if it meant housing after a disaster for those displaced or another use.

“I think these are designed more for people who don’t have a place to spend the night,” said Clark.

The council, with questions for clarification and reviewing the proposed areas, appeared to show concern for allowing a shelter in residential areas.

Resident Kathleen Westenberg told the council the proposal was “unacceptable” due to no restriction in the amount of shelters that could be built and the designated residential areas the city was making available.

“Does it have to be as generous?” asked Councilman Rich Murdoch. “Could it be made more restrictive to meet the requirements?”

Barragan told the council that when areas were studied, they looked at the Central District area of the city and light industrial area, which were the common zones used in neighboring cities.

“It (Industrial) isn’t always the best because you run into other problems,” Barragan said. “You have them out there in the light industrial areas, but then they’re not close to some of the stores, transportation, and things like that.”

Barragan said she didn’t think it was a good use of the light industrial zoning.

“But is it a good use of our residential zoning?” Councilman J.R. McCarty asked. “I wouldn’t want a homeless shelter or anyone providing that service next door to me.”

Clark clarified that the proposal applied to high-density residential zones and not low density, single family zones.

There appeared to be confusion when Barragan then told McCarty that the proposal for shelters didn’t apply to low density residential with Clark quickly correcting her that it did.

“I think we’re being a little too liberal where we’re saying we would allow these to go,” said Murdoch. “I wonder if maybe this couldn’t be looked at again in a more restrictive area.”

After some discussion Clark offered to remove the residential areas from the plan and resubmit it to the state.

With the proposal modified to remove the multi-family residential zone for emergency shelters from the agenda item, the council, with Tom Dunlop absent, voted 3-1, with Councilwoman Cherilyn Bairos as the dissenter.