Coos Health & Wellness is hoping to purchase a hotel in North Bend to be used as an emergency center to house COVID patients and eventually a home for homeless veterans.
Coos Health & Wellness presented its plan to the North Bend City Council on Monday, asking the council to allow the facility to temporarily exist outside the city’s zoning rules.
The facility, now known as the Parkside Motel at 1480 Sherman Ave., sits in a residential zone because the business existed before zoning was established in North Bend. To continue in the location, it must go through the process of getting a special-use permit. Coos Health & Wellness asked to temporarily bypass that step because it wants to apply for grant funding to buy the motel, and the grant does not allow facilities to be funded if they do not meet zoning regulations.
Joe Aguirre with Pacific Properties presented the case to the North Bend City Council.
“Coos Health & Wellness is responsible for providing shelter for people in the area, including transients,” Aguirre said. “The need is there, you see it there.”
As a government health agency, Coos Health & Wellness is leading the local COVID-19 fight, and part of that effort is having a place people can isolate if they test positive for the virus. Many people, including the homeless, have no place to go, which puts the community at greater risk, Aguirre said.
The Oregon Legislature set aside $35 million for what it calls Project Turnkey. The money is to be used to purchase existing hotels that can be used for the COVID-19 effort.
Aguirre said some units are move-in ready at the motel, while others will need to be upgraded.
“We have the grant funds to get it fixed up,” Aguirre said. “It’s kind of an eye-sore.”
Coos Health & Wellness is partnering with Operation Rebuild Hope in the effort. While the government health agency will operate the facility for its COVID effort initially, the long-term plan will be to donate it to the nonprofit that is building Bryan’s Home. The goal of Operation Rebuild Hope is to give homeless veterans a place to stay while they get their lives on track. There will be strict requirements such as drug tests for those who choose to use the agency.
“It’s about giving the people a safe place to stay and getting back on their feet,” Aguirre said.
Aguirre said Coos Health & Wellness was only asking for short-term help to qualify for the grant. He said within 45 days, the agency would begin the zoning steps in city code and would also bring the building up to all standards of city code. The agency will also pay all back taxes due at the time of purchase.
“We just can’t have this hanging over our heads when we’re trying to get the grant,” Aguirre said.
He said the goal would be to close on the building and open it for COVID patients by the end of March. It would only be passed to Operation Rebuild Hope after the COVID pandemic clears.
Aguirre said while the location has a residential zoning, it is in a commercial area. It sits next to another motel and Bryan’s Home.
North Bend City Planner Chelsea Schnabel said the use is appropriate at the location.
“As long as there’s a path to getting to zoning compliance, as long as they follow through, it makes sense,” she said.
Police Chief Robert Kappelman also said the use would be good for the city.
“Finding a positive environment for those folks to make a path forward is a good step,” he said.
Mayor Jessica Engelke said she supported the effort.
“It does seem to be a nice lift up for someone who’s trying to move forward,” she said. “It definitely would benefit our community and our city and people in need, and I think it would be appropriate to move forward.”
City Administrator David Milliron said with council consensus, the city attorney would draft an intergovernmental agreement with Coos Health & Wellness. The council would then be presented the IGA for approval.
“I can support staff moving forward,” Councilor Susanna Noordhoff said. “I think it’s going to be a helpful use of the property and it will be better managed than it is now."