LEWISTON — City staff and elected officials will move forward with the review of new homeless shelter regulations as Mayor Carl Sheline’s Ad Hoc Shelter Committee leads a separate effort to produce recommendations on the subject.
At a town council workshop on Tuesday, city administrator Heather Hunter tried to broker a compromise between council officials who debated whether to move forward with drafting an ordinance before the shelter committee has completed its work.
Hunter said she expects staff to begin reviewing the potential wording of the orders with input from advisers, while the committee continues its work to come up with recommendations. She said all information will be shared with the committee and she hopes that when all parties meet in July there will be collaboration and things that everyone can agree on.
Potential wording of the ordinance will likely focus on issues such as the requirement for a permit, license and fee, a citywide capacity for shelter beds, required buffers of public spaces and Moreover. The council passed a controversial 180-day moratorium in April after a group of local advocates presented a plan for a 24-hour “transition resource centre”.
Sheline, along with councilor Scott Harriman, urged the council to wait until the shelter committee had completed its work to start drafting an order, but councilors who had backed the moratorium said they feared putting in place a order before the moratorium. expiring in September.
“We are committed to moving forward,” Councilor Rick Lachapelle said.
Lachapelle told Sheline that if he wanted more time, the board could extend the moratorium, but said “it’s one or the other.”
Advisors Lee Clement and Robert McCarthy agreed with Lachapelle, arguing that both processes could provide more information and perspective on the issue.
“I don’t think we can get too much information on that,” Clement said.
Several times during the workshop, officials made reference to Portland and the costs associated with housing homeless and refugee families. Hunter used a previous Portland shelter ordinance as a backdrop for the talks. This ordinance has since been repealed.
“I don’t want to see us go in the same direction,” Clement said.
Sheline said “concurrent processes are a waste of time,” adding that the board should defer to “committee experts.” He said the rationale for the moratorium was to make the “best decision possible”, and said the decision should not be made until the board receives the committee’s report.
When Lachapelle suggested the board could extend the moratorium if Sheline wanted more time, Sheline said the board should just hear from the committee in July “and then go from there.”
Hunter said any order will require proper public notice and two readings. She said the votes would likely take place before the moratorium expires.
Councilor Stéphanie Gélinas said Tuesday that the July 19 meeting with the committee will be important, and that the preliminary questions posed to the elected officials were “great”, but “frankly, none of us are experts on the subject. Other groups will have more experience putting this together.
Harriman said he was concerned about the potential language of the ordinances requiring large buffer zones of public spaces, saying a 1,000-foot buffer of schools and parks in Lewiston would essentially eliminate the entire downtown area.
The shelter committee is holding the second “listening session” at 5 p.m. Monday at the Lewiston Public Library, 200 Lisbon St.
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