Business interests appeal Quixote permit

Homeless camp: Funds to pay for land, buildings almost raised

mbatcheldor@theolympian.comSeptember 2, 2012 

For proponents of Quixote Village, the dream is the same: building 30 one-room cottages for the homeless on Thurston County property off Mottman Road that would become the permanent home of Camp Quixote, now an itinerant tent city.

But it now appears that the 30 or so campers – who moved this weekend from Westminster Presbyterian Church off Boulevard Road to Olympia’s First United Methodist Church – will have to endure another winter in the elements because of protracted legal appeals in the case.

Some businesses near the proposed village site have challenged the City of Olympia’s attempt to issue a conditional use permit to allow the village in an industrial zone.

A group calling itself the Industrial Zoning Preservation Association – along with landowners John Peranzi, Vallie Jo Fry and Isobel Cairone – appealed the case to Lewis County Superior Court in June. They have questioned whether an industrial site is appropriate, since heavy trucks go in and out, creating noise and other impacts.

“Basically, I think everyone knows that Mottman Road is a lousy place to put this place,” said Peranzi, who owns property that abuts the proposed village site, in an August hearing before the Olympia City Council.

The council has supported the Quixote Village project, and agreed to change its comprehensive plan to allow permanent homeless encampments earlier this month, in response to another appeal from opponents.

The Quixote Village plan has been a dream for residents at Camp Quixote, who founded their camp city nearly six years ago. The Thurston County property was first proposed in 2010 by Panza, a nonprofit group that supports the camp.

Jill Severn, chairwoman of Panza’s board, said supporters have raised all but $139,000 of the money needed to build the village. They have secured just less than $2.5 million, including the value of the land. Of that, $1.5 million came from the state and $604,000 from a federal Community Development Block Grant; the rest came from private donations.

Supporters want to build 30 eco-friendly cottages with plumbing to allow toilets and a sink, Severn said. Showers would be placed in a community building, and Severn said there would be a workshop where residents could work on projects that make money.

If the legal matters are resolved, Severn hopes to break ground in April.

Steve Friddle, Olympia’s Community Services Manager, said the city would still have to issue a building permit before work could proceed. That is under review, he said.

Camp Quixote started on Feb. 1, 2007, on a small, city-owned parking lot at State Avenue and Columbia Street in downtown Olympia. The camp began as a protest of the city’s Pedestrian Interference Ordinance, which made it a misdemeanor to sit, lie down, sell things or ask for money within 6 feet of the edge of a downtown building during certain hours, with limited exceptions.

City leaders told campers to leave, and police evicted them days later. The Olympia Unitarian Universalist Congregation offered sanctuary for the campers on a site it owns at 2409 Division St. N.W.

City leaders eventually softened their position on the camp and passed an ordinance allowing campers to stay at a church’s property for 90 days; the time period was later extended to 180 days. The camp has been moving regularly ever since, with its hosts including The United Churches, St. John’s Episcopal Church and First Christian Church.

The camp has put a lot of stress on the churches, Severn has said. And campers have grown weary of tearing down and setting up camp every few months.

mbatcheldor@theolympian.com 360-704-6869 @MattBatcheldor

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