SOUTH SALT LAKE — The first homeless resource center site in Salt Lake City is days away from groundbreaking — and yet the site in South Salt Lake hasn't even cleared its first administrative hurdle.
The site planned for a 300-bed homeless resource center, at 3380 S. 1000 West, has seen such a massive delay that the shelter's owners and state leaders fear they may miss their drop-dead deadline to start construction and open the facility by the state-mandated deadline to close the Road Home's troubled downtown shelter: June 30, 2019.
So Wednesday, the South Salt Lake Council called a special meeting to sort through the problems.
But by the end of the hour-long meeting, South Salt Lake Councilman Shane Siwik walked away with fewer answers and "more concern about how screwed up government can be sometimes," he said, shaking his head.
At one point during the meeting, Councilman Mark Kindred put his face in his hands.
Dozens of state officials from the Department of Workforce Services, representatives of the site's owners, Shelter the Homeless, and city officials met Wednesday at South Salt Lake City Hall to discuss the delay, and blame was thrown in every direction.
Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, said his team has done everything required to move forward, but South Salt Lake's process has stalled and representatives from Mayor Cherie Wood's office haven't been attending meetings.
But Wood said technical issues that have delayed permitting — including a hold-up on the property's subdivision plat because of uncertainty about exactly where 1000 West's right-of-way begins and ends. She insisted her hired consultants in charge of coordinating the planning process would "absolutely come" to meetings, but only if the South Salt Lake site is included on an agenda item as to avoid the city "paying a consultant to spend two hours talking about Salt Lake City's issues," she said.
And on top of the holdup, South Salt Lake Council members learned of a contractual provision with Shelter the Homeless that would revert the property's deed to state ownership if the project doesn't break ground by sometime in June.
If that happens, Kindred worried South Salt Lake may lose any say in how the homeless resource center is planned because, as a state project, he feared the shelter might not have to go through South Salt Lake's planning commission.
"We're the laggard here," Kindred said in an interview after the meeting. "We are so far behind the eight ball that we're eight weeks out from the state coming in and taking over the entire process."
He added, "I just don't want to be the city that got left behind because we didn't cooperate appropriately."
And for Siwik, he doubted the city could get the permitting process done by June.
"How do you do that in 30 days?" Siwik said. "There's no way."
Neighborhood 'in limbo'
While council members were left concerned, the 1000 West neighbors who live near the site — who had been promised Salt Lake County would offer to buy out their properties before the homeless shelter is built — were left more confused and frustrated than ever before.
"It's all just a blame game," said Cindy Jones, who has a home on the street near her 82-year-old mother, Elaine, who has lived on the street for more than 50 years.
"I'm still confused," Jones said, adding that the meeting seemed more like a "fact-finding mission to see who we can blame when it doesn't come together by the deadline."
"They can all play in the sandbox together and leave us out of it, but we just need to know if they're going to do what (Salt Lake County) Mayor Ben McAdams said — which is to financially help, to compensate us for our properties," Jones said. "That's our issue. And I still don't know."
She said meanwhile, her life and the lives of her neighbors remain "in limbo," with even more uncertainty about not only if they'll receive fair offers for their homes, but whether their property lines will be changed because of the right-of-way issues with 1000 West.
"They're disrupting the lives of people who have lived on the street for 50 years. It's just heart-wrenching," Jones said, motioning to her mother and their longtime neighbor, Joyce Hewitt, who nodded in agreement.
Possible deed transfer
On Monday, the women's resource center planned for 131 E. 700 South in Salt Lake City is set for groundbreaking, and the mixed-gender site at 275 Paramount Ave. is expected to follow a week later, Cochrane said.
Yet even though the process with South Salt Lake began in October, Shelter the Homeless has not been able to proceed with a subdivision plat, conditional use permit and a building permit for the men's shelter site.
"At this point, I don't know what else Shelter the Homeless can do other than encourage them to act fast and act quickly," Cochrane said in an interview after the meeting, adding that he "sure hopes" issues can be sorted out before the deadline when the site's deed would be transferred to the state.
Cochrane said he knows the contract's deadline is in June, but he didn't know the exact date.
Jonathan Hardy, director of Housing and Community Development in the state's Department of Workforce Services and also a member of the state's Homeless Coordinating Committee, said if that deed is transferred back to the state, state leaders would then have to determine whether to continue with the process as is or "whether the state would need to take a more active role in the development of the shelter."
"What would that active role look like?" Kindred asked.
"It could look a number of different ways," Hardy said, but noted the state could proceed with the shelter as a state project, but "even if that were the case, we'd still be looking to partner ... to make sure this is successful for both the state and the community."
But Hardy said he believed the state would not need to go through South Salt Lake's planning commission to get the project done.
'We all want the same thing'
Jodi Hoffman, the South Salt Lake consultant tasked with helping the city with the shelter site, said the June contract deadline was "actually news to me," but told Siwik it would be "OK if the state takes it back" because the state would still need to subdivide the property and still build according to building code.
Either way, Hoffman said city officials want to resolve the boundary and right-of-way issues so they can move forward with the permitting process as soon as possible.
"We too are frustrated that this first step hasn't yet been resolved," she said. "But it's certainly not been for lack of trying."
In an interview after the meeting, Wood said she was "surprised" the council called the special meeting, noting that she had been in meetings with Salt Lake County officials to try to sort out issues with the boundaries as late as Monday, "so I really felt like we were on a path of finding a resolution."
"We're still a partner," she said. "We're still at the table."
But Wood said Salt Lake County can't move forward with a conditional use permit until the subdivision plat has been figured out, because only then can the city run the needed fire suppression line to service a 300-bed homeless shelter.12 comments on this story
"Everyone's reasonable ... We all want the same thing," Wood said. "We all want the most successful homeless center that's ever been built. And we are on board for that — but again, you have to have adequate infrastructure to serve a facility that's 80,000 square feet that's been put down on an alfalfa field on a country road."
While the shelter site remains in a tangled mess bureaucratic mess, Jones and her neighbors walked away feeling lost.
"This is a nightmare," she said.