Council balks at fee waiver for homeless housing

The Grand Junction City Council absorbed development fees for Grand Valley Catholic Outreach’s first two projects to house chronically homeless people, but councilors on Monday placed on a hold a request by the nonprofit organization for the city to pay development fees for a third project.

A majority of councilors asked Catholic Outreach to first request funding from the Downtown Development Authority and School District 51 to cover total development fees of $110,079. Councilors requested that Catholic Outreach ask District 51 to cover the school impact fees of $10,640.

Councilor Marty Chazen asked members of Catholic Outreach what would happen if councilors opted not to charge the city for the fees.

“It wouldn’t stop the project but it would make us feel bad,” replied Sister Karen Bland, Catholic Outreach executive director.

Bland said she had contacted the DDA and learned that the 24-unit, new apartment complex going up at Second Street and Pitkin Avenue is outside of the DDA boundary. Catholic Outreach has demolished five homes on the site and expects new construction to begin by early April.

Bland also pointed out that fees for this project were less than previous projects. The city paid for $72,000 in development fees and allocated an additional $100,000 in a federal pass-through Community Development Block Grant in 2008 for construction of 23 units at St. Benedict’s Place, 217 White Ave.

In 2011, the city covered nearly $69,800 of fees and allocated an additional $50,000 in a Community Development Block Grant for the 16-unit complex at St. Martin’s Place, 415 S. Third St.

Bland said the agency has covered most of the funding for the new $2.6 million project with private donations and grants from foundations. One question donors always ask is whether the local government has some buy-in on the project, she said.

“I assured them that you would be joining with us,” Bland said. “It’s an opportunity. We invite you to join us. You cannot end homelessness without homes.”

Councilors said the issue of whether the DDA board would be willing to help pay for development costs, or start the process to include the new apartment complex in the DDA boundary could be broached at the DDA’s next meeting on March 27.

If that were approved, City Attorney John Shaver said it would require a couple meetings and several weeks for the DDA to include the area in its boundary. City staff said they could wait on requiring development fees, so Catholic Outreach would not fall behind on its construction timeline.

Apartments at the new St. Martin’s Place will be designated first for homeless veterans. If that need is filled, other units will be dedicated to chronically homeless individuals.


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