Many back lasting site for Camp Quixote

HEARING: Tent city wants to settle on county property

May 3, 2011 

OLYMPIA More than 100 people packed into Olympia City Hall Monday night, mostly to express support to the Olympia Planning Commission for Quixote Village, a proposed permanent homeless encampment.

Camp Quixote, an itinerant tent city, wants to settle permanently on 1.6 acres of Thurston County-owned property on Mottman Road west of R.W. Johnson Boulevard. The Panza board, which oversees the camp’s finances, and the Thurston County Commission, support the plan.

But the city’s planning code requires a change or a conditional use provision to allow the camp. The planning commission will review the case and make a recommendation to the Olympia City Council, which has the final say on the proposal.

The commission held a public hearing lasting more than two hours, but made no decision.

Most people at the meeting, with the exception of some property owners near the proposed camp site, voiced support for the proposal.

“Quixote Village will be a microcosm of Olympia’s vision and values,” said Jill Severn, president of the Panza board.

Thurston County Commissioner Cathy Wolfe said the county is “100 percent behind you in this effort.”

Camp residents spoke emotionally in support of their home, which is now at United Churches, 110 11th Ave. S.E. in Olympia. The city requires the camp to move every 90 days, which residents say is a hardship.

“Not everybody is homeless because they choose to be,” said Tinamarie Swihart, who is disabled. “I’m homeless because I lost my job and I was hit by a car.”

Another resident, Lucas Reidler, said he served recently in the Marine Corps and the Washington National Guard and was diagnosed with a psychiatric disability.

“Almost a year ago, I had hurt myself and I had knee surgery and that’s what started my path into homelessness,” he said. “I have a job. I work part-time and if it weren’t for Camp Quixote, that would not have been possible.”

Opponents of the camp were also passionate.

“There’s no question the goals and ideals behind this are laudable,” said Robert Casey, an attorney for John Peranzi, who owns property adjacent to the proposed camp site.

But he said the site, in a nonresidential zone, would be ill-suited for a camp. For example, trucks come in and out of the area and make loud beeping noises when they back up.

Peranzi said nobody from the city or Panza contacted him about the camp. “I find that a little odd and possibly illegal,” he said.

In an interview later, Peranzi offered to assemble land in a residential area and exchange it for the county property .

Tony Cairone, who owns property across the street from the proposed camp, also voiced opposition.

“It’s a full light industrial park,” he said, with activity “a full 24-7.”

He also criticized the public notification process.

“I have a place on South Bay Road I would be glad to give you,” he said. “Nobody asked me.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869
mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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