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Possible homeless sites topic for committee; The public can voice concerns about the choice of location at a Tuesday meeting

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This Parks and Recreation office on East 12th Street near North Virginia Avenue was designated by the Roswell City Council as the primary site for a possible homeless facility or camp that the Roswell Homeless Coalition would create. A Tuesday meeting will allow property owners and the public to makes comments about using this site — and an identified alternative location near the Wool Bowl — for that purpose. (Jeff Tucker Photo)

City of Roswell managers will present their requests for zoning variances that would allow for the establishment of a homeless site on city property at a meeting this week.

The public and nearby property owners will have the opportunity to hear about and comment on two northeast properties that could be used as sites for homeless facilities when the city of Roswell Planning and Zoning Commission meets Tuesday, 6 p.m., at the Roswell Museum and Art Center on West 11th St.

“I believe it our intent to provide just the land,” said Roswell Planning Manager Bill Morris. “We will look to provide a site, and then funding (to create homeless facilities) is a whole different aspect after this.”

He said the Homeless Coalition, a group of Roswell nonprofits that currently help at-risk populations and the homeless, would be in charge of further developing structures, tents or facilties if a city property is approved as a site.

Morris added that the city has received about four letters so far in response to its notifications sent to owners of buildings and land surrounding the two suggested locations.

Agenda items indicate that three property owners other than the city of Roswell hold 10 parcels around the site selected by the Roswell City Council as the first choice, a 1.10-acre parcel near East 12th Street and North Virginia Avenue. Two of the three property owners are individuals or couples, while the third is the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway Co.

About 20 property owners other than the city — from small business owners to the New Mexico Military Institute to individuals—own land or buildings near the secondary choice, a 4.78-acre parcel next to the Wool Bowl near the intersection of Grande Avenue and East College Boulevard.

A manager for one of those properties indicated her support for the concept of a homeless site but said she does have questions about the suitability of the Wool Bowl site.

“My concern with the Wool Bowl location is the truck traffic on College. There’s a lot of student traffic as well,” said Nancy Fleming, director of the Anderson Museum of Contemporary Art, which is located on College Boulevard. “I don’t know if it is an ideal location, but I definitely want the homeless to have a place if they want it.”

Both Planning and Zoning requests indicate that any variance granted would be in effect for a maximum of 30 months. Morris said that, after that time, the city will evaluate the situation.

“We will make a determination if there is a permanent site or if there is an alternative site that would better fit,” said Morris. “This is a pilot project. We are looking to see how this is going to work —that the rules are in place to make this a safe place to operate — basically that this is an appropriate, functioning entity out there. After 30 months, hopefully, we can identify whether it is a success or a failure or if it needs to go somewhere else.”

Morris added that the City Council has authorized city staff to identify a third location if the primary or secondary sites are determined unsuitable. If a third site is identified, city staff would have to bring that to a future Planning and Zoning Commission meeting.

Senior Writer Lisa Dunlap can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 310, or at reporter02@rdrnews.com.