An Ashland councilor said Tuesday that the city will not give its two plots of land on Clay Street to a tiny houses project as the organizer continues to press for an answer.
Karen Logan, founder of the tiny house transitional housing project, came back to the City Council Tuesday night asking for a response. The city ended her chance to apply for housing grants by not issuing a letter of interest before the Feb. 16 deadline.
Supporters of the proposed project have offered to buy and lease the city’s two properties at 380 Clay St. to build 12 to 15 transitional units in a fenced community for women and children in Ashland to keep them off the streets and get back on their feet, Logan said.
The council usually does not respond during the public comment portion of its meetings, but Councilor Dennis Slattery said the city wouldn’t consider the proposal until Logan provides an operational plan.
“I’m interested in tiny homes, but we need a plan,” Slattery said at the meeting. “This is not a popularity contest. … All of us have met with you, and we’re not getting anywhere.”
City Administrator John Karns told the Tidings on Feb. 6 that the city has been negotiating with the Housing Authority for three years over the property on Clay Street. The city is now finalizing the deal to include an adjacent 2.5-acre lot bordering YMCA Park for a low-income housing project, Karns said. That property was previously listed as a possible site for a dog park.
Logan, in one of her last efforts to persuade the council, met with the media Wednesday, bringing along three community members who spoke in support of the project.
“There’s so much confusion that the tiny village will take away from other program, but that’s not the case,” Logan said, noting the project supporters have offered to move the tiny houses once the Housing Authority is ready to build. “I want to get everybody — the city, tiny houses and HAJC — in a same room to talk, but that’s not happening.”
Logan said the project has gained support — St. Vincent de Paul has offered to refer and recommend qualified applicants; Rogue Retreat would be the case manager for the tenants; Hope Village in Medford and SquareOne Village in Eugene would consult with Logan on how to run her own village.
The project also has $350,000 in cash, donated by Ashland attorney Lloyd Matthew Haines.
“I’m confused when (Slattery) said we don’t have a plan,” Logan said of her partnerships. “The city can give me an approval with conditions attached … and then we will figure it out later.”
Jeannie Martin, a divorced woman who moved from California three years ago, said she was raped three times while sleeping on the streets of Ashland because she didn’t have anywhere to go.
“If you spend every night looking for a safe bed to sleep on, you will never be able to move forward,” Martin said, advocating for the tiny homes project. “It’s not safe for women to be out there.”
Logan added that even without the grants, which could have totaled up to $665,000, the project could move ahead if the city gives the go-ahead.
Karns said in an interview in February that the council had encouraged Logan to look at different sites in the city.
Slattery said he had been meeting with Logan about the tiny house project for over a year and a half.
“I have been clear with her from the beginning: We need a plan,” Slattery said after the Tuesday meeting, explaining that the city needs to know how the nonprofit will select its tenants, ensure safety among them and help them transition out of homelessness.
“Making an offer on the land is not enough. … Our legal team has advised us that it’s not possible to have two projects at that location,” Slattery said. “She can’t expect us to just turn land over.”
When asked Wednesday about her next steps if the councilors don’t change their minds, Logan said she will continue advocating for the project, but might take it to another city.
“Right now I need an official answer from the city,” Logan said. “I will continue to fight for our cause until we get an answer.”
— Reach reporter Tran Nguyen at 541-776-4485 or email@example.com. Follow her on twitter @nguyenntrann.