Comments open early for Everett homeless housing project

EVERETT — The city of Everett is now accepting public comments for its proposed homeless housing project.

Catholic Housing Services, which the city has contracted with to build and operate the facility, has filed for permits with the city, the first step in the State Environmental Policy Act process.

A deadline for submitting comments has not been set.

Everett typically has a 14-day comment period once official notice has gone out to the neighborhood and other stakeholders.

“In this case, we wanted to make sure the public had plenty of opportunity to comment, more than the typical application process,” Everett Planning Director Allan Giffen said.

The official public notice will go out after the city finishes its own review of Catholic Housing’s application, Giffen said.

That may be a couple of weeks away, he said. The deadline would then come 14 days later.

A letter from Mayor Ray Stephanson also has been sent to 1,250 residents and property owners near the site.

In the letter, Stephanson said that the city would create a stakeholder group of nearby neighbors and businesses. “The group will meet regularly to develop ideas for improving and engaging the surrounding area,” he wrote.

The project site is at 6107 Berkshire Drive off Evergreen Way, which also houses the city’s fire training building, one of the city’s reservoirs and a pump station for the Snohomish County Public Utility District.

The proposal calls for a four-story 70-unit apartment building with a secure entry and office space for social workers on the ground floor. The building would be staffed around the clock and fenced off from the other parts of the property.

Catholic Housing was awarded $2.45 million from the state Housing Trust Fund to begin the project, and the city has budgeted $200,000 in 2017 for support staff.

If everything goes according to plan, construction could start in late summer.

The decision to put the apartments in the Glacier View and Pinehurst neighborhoods has drawn numerous complaints from local residents, who fear it would lead to an increase in crime or drop in property values.

One resident, Aaron Powell, told the City Council at its Wednesday meeting that the neighbors have felt cut out of the decision-making process and bullied into accepting it. One of the neighbors has already sold his house in response to the city’s plans, he said.

“Our community feels like it has no representation in this, that we were left out on purpose,” Powell said.

“Find a way to make it fair in Everett for everyone,” he said. “Right now it only feels like it’s fair to the criminals.”

In May 2016, the city selected the site from a list of about two dozen potential locations. Although Stephanson emphasized the site selection was not final, the Berkshire Drive site was determined to be the best possible location according to several criteria, including proximity to shopping and transit and cost to buy and redevelop the site.

The city made final its choice for a location in September, and in November the City Council approved the decision unanimously.

The next steps include obtaining the special use permit for the property and subdividing the 21.5-acre parcel into three lots. The city is considering a long-term lease arrangement with Catholic Housing for the use of the property, Giffen said.

Chris Winters: 425-374-4165; Twitter: @Chris_At_Herald.

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