While county could go ahead with project, supervisor who spearheaded effort said he wouldn’t pursue it without city’s blessing.
By LOU PONSI / ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER, June 19, 2013
After concerns were raised by residents opposed to the location of a county-proposed homeless shelter, the City Council voted, 3-2, against forging an agreement with the county to run the facility.
Mayor Bruce Whitaker, along with council members Doug Chaffee and Greg Sebourn, voted against the agreement. Jan Flory and Jennifer Fitzgerald turned in the yes votes.
The vote, which came late Tuesday after more than 60 citizens addressed the council, essentially thwarts the county’s attempt to purchase the former furniture store at 301 State College Blvd. to convert into a year-round shelter.
Supervisor Shawn Nelson in January took the lead in a search for a location.
While the county could legally proceed with the $3.1million purchase without an agreement, Nelson said previously he would not impose jurisdiction without the city’s blessing.
“At the end of the day, if the people don’t want it, they don’t want it,” Nelson said prior to the meeting. “If this does not satisfy their need or solve their problem, then I accept it.”
Whitaker said the City Council was basically excluded from county’s search.
“The only control we can have in this process is to reject this agreement,” the mayor said.
Chaffee said the city would have more control if the council, on its own, looked into buying or leasing properties to serve the homeless.
“I’d like to find one or more sites that serve the homeless sometime this year,” Chaffee said.
Of the roughly 40 residents who spoke against the agreement, nearly all cited the shelter’s proximity to Commonwealth Elementary School as a major concern.
Fitzgerald said she performed exhaustive research at other shelters and that residents’ fears were unfounded. “There is no basis in reality to the emotional concerns that you have,” she told the audience.
Eric Coulter, a Yorba Linda resident who owns a home in Fullerton, said a shelter is “not necessarily the answer to the homeless problem.” “It’s not mandatory for them to go there and it’s not mandatory for them to stay there,” Coulter said.
The year-round shelter would have replaced a seasonal shelter at the Fullerton armory that operates from December through March.
Under the agreement, the shelter operator would have followed “good neighbor” polices, provided on-site security and made improvements to the facility to further ensure the safety of the community.
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