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Homeless camp runs into more opposition

City manager Joe Neeb explains the process between the city and Roswell Homeless Coalition if the third selected location is accepted by the council. (Trevier Gonzalez Photo)

Copyright © 2021 Roswell Daily Record

The Roswell City Council voted Thursday night to table a proposal to set up a homeless camp, the third such site to run into stiff opposition from nearby property owners.

The City Council voted 6-3 to table the proposal to allow the Roswell Homeless Coalition to operate an outdoor homeless camp for up to 30 months on city property at South Grand Avenue and East Alameda Street.

City councilors Tabitha Denny, Barry Foster, Caleb Grant, Juan Oropesa, Savino Sanchez Jr. and Art Sandoval voted to table the resolution. City councilors Jeanine Corn Best, Steve Henderson and Natasha Mackey voted to move forward with the resolution, which would have authorized the city manager to begin negotiations with the homeless coalition. City Councilor Jason Perry had left the meeting before the resolution was considered.

The city’s planning manager, Bill Morris, told the City Council the proposed site at 300 E. Alameda St. is the third and last option of city-owned property that could be used for a homeless camp.

“It’s easy to throw hand grenades around,” Morris said of opposition to other proposed homeless sites at a city Parks and Recreation Department office and equipment yard near North Virginia Avenue and East 12th Street, and a secondary site near Grand Avenue and East College Boulevard, directly south of the Wool Bowl.

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“I don’t have another site after this one,” Morris said. “Anywhere you want to drop this thing is going to have the same kind of issues.”

The City Council in September approved the other city properties as possible locations, but the P&Z Commission voted unanimously to deny the necessary zoning variances.

City Councilor Caleb Grant said the process to find a site has been rushed. Grant suggested tabling the proposal.

“I think we can’t keep going down this road,” Grant said. “We have to have the community buy into this. Let’s slow down, do it right, go over all the objections because the unknown part is what people freak out about.

“There’s not a perfect location. We all know that. No one wants it by their property.”

City Councilor Barry Foster agreed.

“I do think we need to put more thought into it before it gets to this level,” Foster said.

City Councilor Juan Oropesa asked why all three proposed locations are on the city’s east side.

“I can’t, for the life of me, imagine that we don’t have other properties,” Oropesa said. “I really don’t understand why we’re just looking at East Alameda on the east side.”

City Councilor Savino Sanchez Jr. said he did not like any of the three proposed sites.

“If I were the homeless coalition, I’d be looking for a good site,” Sanchez said. “There are so many questions about this whole thing.

“We need to go back and sit down and find a property that’s going to work, instead of trying to rush this whole thing.”

City Councilor Steve Henderson encouraged input from the community.

“We’re really struggling with this,” Henderson said. “There may be some ideas that we haven’t heard so far.”

City Councilor Tabitha Denny said any homeless site is bound to run into opposition.

“I don’t think that we’re going to find the perfect place,” Denny said. “There’s always going to be somebody that says, ‘Not in my backyard.'”

A homeless site with people living in tents is not legal under city zoning law.

Editor Jeff Tucker can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 303, or at editor@rdrnews.com.

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