Colusa County’s Department of Behavioral Health will have to wait to open its temporary transitional housing program, after the City of Colusa’s Planning Commission continued last month’s public hearing for the issuance of a conditional use permit.
On Sept. 28, Terry Rooney, the county’s director of Behavioral Health, approached the Planning Commission to approve a conditional use permit for the property located at 411 Main St. in Colusa.
The property’s current city zoning designation is General Commercial (C-G) District, and according to the city’s zoning code, the city’s planning commission would need to issue a conditional use permit in order to allow for residential use there.
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While the report from the city’s senior planner Bryan Stice made no specific recommendation to the planning commission, Stice did recommend that the commission “consider the proposed project for its merits and for its appropriateness within the Riverfront District.”
His report had previously noted that the city’s general plan called for creating “an economically vibrant Riverfront District that reflects the cultural and historical significance of the area,” and that he did not see how the proposed project contributed to that vision.
In a 4-1 vote, the planning commission ultimately asked for more time, more notice to the public, and a more detailed plan before they would approve the conditional use permit.
“Staff can clarify with you where we’re coming from on this. I hope your takeaway from this is that we want you to be successful. We want this to work for the entire community and the community you are trying to serve, and we just don’t think this is something that we want to just rush into,” commission chair Richard Selover said after the vote.
The commission will hear the item again during their Oct. 26 meeting, which will take place at 7:00 PM at City Hall.
While they said they were supportive of the program in general, a number of commissioners expressed concerns with what they described as the open-ended nature of the program: From the criteria for selecting transitional housing residents, to the length of time a qualifying individual could spend in the transitional housing, to the number of people the facility would serve on a day to day basis.
Prior to the vote to continue the hearing, Rooney answered questions and attempted to allay some of the commissioners concerns regarding what they viewed as uncertainties.
“We have experience with other programs. Virtually all other counties have these programs. They’re not completely unique — it’s not something we would be reinventing the wheel on,” Rooney said.
He added that he was requesting a conditional use permit to move forward with modifications to the building and to get the program started, and more detailed information would be made available soon as the program continued to take shape. He added that delaying the program by a month could prevent individuals from benefiting from the services.
About the Program
Funding for the program will come from Mental Health Services Act (MHSA) Housing Program funds from the California Housing Finance Agency (CalHFA).
Colusa County Behavioral Health has $300,000 available in funds that can only be used for housing purposes. In a presentation to the Colusa County Board of Supervisors in July, Rooney said that the program could potentially be sustainable through MediCal and MHSA funds.
The facility will be able to accommodate a maximum of six individuals, who will be able to utilize the services of the program for up to 18 months, though the time in the program will ultimately vary from individual to individual.
The program will be able to service the homeless community as well; as an estimated 50 percent of the homeless population in Colusa has been deemed to be eligible for the program.
The focus of the program will be on developing self-care and life skills, and program participation will be based on consumer buy-in and sweat equity, Rooney said. The department will continue to follow program participants after leaving the program for a period of time. The program will be named for Dereck Parks, the county’s former MHSA coordinator, who died unexpectedly in March of 2014. ■