Mayor has plan to get delayed South Salt Lake homeless shelter back on track

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SOUTH SALT LAKE — A week has passed since a tense meeting was called to sort out problems stalling the South Salt Lake homeless resource center’s groundbreaking. But officials are giving mixed signals on whether progress is being made.

South Salt Lake Mayor Cherie Wood said Wednesday, a day after she met with state leaders to discuss the matters, that she’s “confident” her team will be able to find solutions to the technical issues that have delayed permitting — if needed planning materials are submitted within the next five days.

“We have a plan that we’re working toward,” she said. “We’re hopeful that it goes smoothly.”

But City Councilman Mark Kindred said it seems overly optimistic that the problems that have delayed the process for the past six months can be solved by Monday.

“In five days? I mean, come on,” Kindred said, laughing. “Of course it would be great if we can get to that date and everybody’s on board … but I’ll believe it when I see it.”

So Kindred said he remains concerned that South Salt Lake might lose any say in the project if it doesn’t break ground before June 30, the deadline in the site’s purchase agreement that would allow state officials to take over and move forward with it as a state project.

If that happens, the homeless center would not be required to go through South Salt Lake’s planning commission, Kindred worries.

More than a year ago, city officials were outraged when Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams selected the site at 3380 S. 1000 West for the 300-bed men’s homeless resource center. Since then, unable to fight the decision, Wood had said she’d do everything in her power to ensure the facility would be successful and work to mitigate its impact on the community.

But in last week’s meeting with leaders from the state and Shelter the Homeless — the nonprofit that has been tasked with building and owning the facilities (as long as groundbreaking deadlines are met) — many blamed Wood’s administration for holding up the process.

But Wood said technical issues have delayed permitting, including a holdup on the property’s subdivision plat due to uncertainty about exactly where 1000 West’s right-of-way begins and ends because old county records of the property’s boundaries had been lost.

“I think it’s better to control our own destiny than it is to hand it over to the state, though I don’t think (that) is the worst option ever.”

Wednesday, Preston Cochrane, executive director of Shelter the Homeless, said he’s “fully optimistic” the June 30 deadline can be met — though he had hoped ground would have been broken on the South Salt Lake facility by May.

“I’m confident progress is being made,” Cochrane said, adding that it’s “definitely possible we can all get there by deadline if certain conditions are met.”

Wood said if all needed subdivision plat materials are submitted by Monday, then South Salt Lake’s planning commission would tentatively hold a work meeting on May 26 for the subdivision. Additionally, all conditional use permit application materials would need to be submitted by May 20 so the planning commission could hold a work meeting on May 31. Then, public hearings would tentatively be held June 5 and 10.

But 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, didn’t go so far as to say his meeting with Wood on Tuesday left him confident progress is happening.

“Progress, to me, is execution of those things,” he said, though he did say he’s “optimistic the project is going to move forward one way or another.”

Shelter the Homeless is seeking bids on who will operate the three new homeless resource centers when they open next summer, but critics say they know who they don’t want: the Road Home.

The same state law that allocated $20 million for construction of the three new homeless resource centers also mandates the Road Home’s downtown homeless shelter to close by June 30, 2019, meaning the new homeless centers must be up and running by then — and McAdams said stakeholders don’t plan on missing that deadline.

“The plan is there won’t be a delay,” he said.

Meanwhile, as time goes on, it’s looking “more and more likely” the state officials may build the shelter as a state facility, McAdams told the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards this week. Though he added, “I don’t think it would be the worst thing in the world.”

“I think it’s better to control our own destiny than it is to hand it over to the state, though I don’t think (that) is the worst option ever,” the county mayor said.

McAdams noted South Salt Lake may want to have more say on how the property is developed for future planning purposes — for example, to install infrastructure big enough to support other type of development near or around the shelter — while the state may be more inclined to put in the “bare minimum” needed to support the facility.

“I think that’s the risk to the city if they continue to drag their feet,” McAdams said, though he soon after clarified, saying accusing the city of “dragging its feet” was “a little more aggressive than I want to be.”

“I understand that this is not a project the city of South Salt Lake is eager to pursue,” McAdams said, but added that it’s “fair to say the issues are complicated” and South Salt Lake is a smaller city that doesn’t have the planning staff, as say Salt Lake City, Salt Lake County or the state of Utah.

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