Tiny-home communities are groups of small shelters for unhoused people. Here a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Tiny-home communities are groups of small shelters for unhoused people. Here a worker installs weatherstripping on a pallet shelter at Pallet in Everett in 2020. (Kevin Clark / Herald file)

Tiny home community is proposed at a Marysville church

The Pallet shelter community would provide transitional housing to eight people. Neighbors have questions.

MARYSVILLE — Snohomish County could soon have more shelter for unhoused people.

North Snohomish County Outreach (NSCO) has applied to create a 4,500-square-foot pilot Pallet community in the parking lot of Generations Community Church at 8240 64th St. in Marysville. The city’s planning team has requested more information from the applicant in order to perform an adequate review, Mayor Jon Nehring said.

Pallet communities are groups of tiny homes that provide temporary residence for unhoused people. A similar community is slated to open this summer in Everett, where the company that builds the shelters, Pallet, is based.

The proposed 90-day pilot likely cannot be stopped by the city, but if it receives enough public comment it could head to a third-party hearings examiner for a final decision, Nehring said.

The “Marysville Pallet Shelter” would include eight 64-square-foot Pallet shelters, each six feet apart, with two bathroom units. The shelters would be available for people seeking shelter who “have been screened with the capacity to work or are already working,” according to the public notice.

Success of the pilot program will be measured through residents’ commitment to pursue a permanent housing solution and support resources, or to start or continue education, training or employment, according to NSCO’s website.

Pastor Craig Laughlin of Generations Community Church said NSCO has a rigorous vetting process.

“One of the really big parts of this is the screening process to get in,” Laughlin said. “Those with violent pasts and sex offenders aren’t allowed in this to begin with.”

According to the site plan, the community would be positioned in the southeast corner of the parking lot, away from the church’s main entrance. It would use about 20 parking spots. The community would be gated and include an on-site office for NSCO staff.

Laughlin said this project was first envisioned last fall through conversations with the executive director and founder of NSCO, Sarah Higginbotham, and John Hall of the Everett Gospel Mission. The church’s primary role would be providing space for the NSCO-run community, but Laughlin said he was heavily involved in the planning process, because homelessness is of personal significance to him.

“I’ve cared about homelessness for a long, long, long time. My dad was homeless for a piece,” he said. “We have to do something. If you don’t eventually address the underlying problem, then it’s going to get us.”

The community would fall under the Marysville Municipal Code’s definition of Transitory Housing and requires a special permit, unless the city’s community development director determines “the proposed transitory accommodation possesses no characteristics which might adversely impact the community.”

The applicant must identify any potentially adverse effects on the neighbors and develop mitigation measures. According to the code, any “activities” within transitory housing have to be out of view of adjacent properties.

Some residents near the proposed project received a courtesy letter from Generations Community Church about a week ago and have since been seeking more information from the city. Neighbors have been calling attention to the project via the NextDoor app and Facebook. The application was submitted May 25.

The church’s letter outlined some of the conditions for the Pallet community. Entry will be limited to residents who have been referred by social service agencies and those who are not suffering from “active and/or severe” behavioral health disorders such as substance abuse. The letter states the community will be operated by paid NSCO staff.

Sarah Lemas is among those who received a letter. She lives with her family across from the proposed community on 61st Place.

Lemas said she thinks the project is important, but she is concerned with the proximity to her unfenced backyard and her child’s school bus stop.

“I had a friend who was homeless for a while, so I can really have empathy for these people,” Lemas said. “It’s scary to know that someone you love is out there and there’s nothing really you can do.”

She said it would make more sense for the project to be relocated to a more “centralized” location, within walking distance to resources such as a health clinic or businesses where individuals could find work.

Cassie Mulivrana lives about 700 feet from the proposed shelter. She also said she feels the location — about a 30-minute walk from downtown — is a bad fit.

“I want to know how are they going to help these people access food,” she said.

Mulivrana said that a Pallet community in Skagit County called First Step is within walking distance of a health clinic, stores and businesses where people can seek work.

She said she did not receive a letter from the church about the proposed Pallet community, but hopes there will be a chance for neighbors to voice their concerns.

“I would love for them to get community input,” Mulivrana said.

Generations Community Church, NSCO and the Everett Gospel Mission will host a Zoom session to provide more information about the proposed project at 6:30 p.m June 30. The Zoom requires pre-registration, which can be accessed on NSCO’s website.

The city is accepting written comments through July 9. Comments may be submitted to the City of Marysville Community Development Department, 80 Columbia Ave., Marysville, WA 98270.

Informational flyers about the project, site plan and community code of conduct can also be found on NCSO’s website.

Isabella Breda: 425-339-3192; isabella.breda@heraldnet.com. Twitter: @BredaIsabella.

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