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Homeless funding bill empowers state to override city in picking Salt Lake County shelter site

First Published      Last Updated Mar 25 2017 09:58 pm

A bill that would put a bow on state funding for three homeless shelters would also bestow a gift upon Salt Lake County: the ability to locate a shelter in a city that may not want it.

Sponsored by Majority Whip Francis Gibson, HB441 follows a recently announced revision in the plan to better direct the state's homeless population — much of it concentrated in the capital city — toward housing and services.

Gibson's bill would complete the Legislature's role in appropriating $20 million for construction and press Salt Lake County to site the third and final shelter within the month.




Salt Lake City Mayor Jackie Biskupski said to the House Public Utilities, Energy and Technology Committee on Monday morning that the bill "may be the single most important action the Legislature takes this year."

The committee stamped HB441 with a unanimous favorable recommendation and sent it to the House floor, where it passed 75-0 on its way to the Senate. Under the bill, sheperded by Gibson and House Speaker Greg Hughes, cities wouldn't be able to stop a homeless shelter from being built within their borders if the shelter is approved by the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee, which will make a final determination on a third shelter site later this month based on the county's recommendations.

The bill says only that the committee "may" consider whether a facility would meet a municipality's current zoning regulations and says a municipality "may not adopt or enforce an ordinance or other regulation" in opposition to a committee-approved site.

That provision simplifies a sped-up selection process for Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

McAdams said after the committee hearing that the county will work with involved cities to ensure they have a voice during site selection and, should they receive a shelter, input in its design.

"I hope that cities will recognize that we want to work constructively with them to find the best location that works," he said.

Gibson, likewise, said the "intent" of the bill is to engage a selected city's mayor and council and to hew to its ordinances.

McAdams said that since it was first asked to consider the new proposal in mid-February, the county has identified five sites it hopes to present to the public — a departure from the precedent set by Salt Lake City as it chose four sites behind closed doors under a state law that protects real estate transactions.

He promised "robust yet abbreviated" public engagement that will include two open houses at the Capitol, tentatively scheduled for Tuesday, March 14, and Saturday, March 18.

The city's sites are expected to be capped at 200 beds but the county's site may include upward of 300.

State Housing and Community Development Director Jonathan Hardy said that in addition to the state funding, about $15 million has been contributed in private funds. Hardy said they need about $13 million more to build the three shelters.

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