Will provide housing for caretakers
Jamie’s Place will be allowed to place two portable “tiny homes’ adjacent to its buildings in Winthrop to provide much-needed housing for the facility’s caregivers.
After a public hearing, the Winthrop Town council followed a staff recommendation to allow a conditional use permit for the two homes at its meeting last week. Jamie’s Place Executive Director Rana Clarke said the homes will likely be occupied by two single people who currently work at the facility.
The conditional use permit is good for two years, after which time Jamie’s Place can move the houses or remove their tires and make them more permanent. The permit requires that the houses be connected to city water and sewer lines and to Okanogan County Electric Cooperative service. The two units are not likely to be visible from Norfolk Road.
Clarke said Jamie’s Place hopes to find a better long-term solution during the next two years.
The homes are 28 feet long and about 8 ½ feet wide, or about 240 square feet.
Town Planner Rocklynn Culp said Jamie’s Place sought a conditional use permit to address its urgent housing needs for existing staff. She said the town code doesn’t specifically address how the mobile tiny houses might be allowed, so they fall under camping regulations. The Jamie’s Place site is in the R3 residential zone.
Culp said allowing the homes involves a bit of “threading the needle” on allowable uses in that zone, but the staff foresees no negative impacts.
Clarke told the council that to keep Jamie’s Place open, the facility needs caretakers, and that it could conceivably close if it cannot retain enough staffers. She called the tiny homes a “possible bridge” to a long-term solution.
In its report to the council, the staff noted that “the Planning Commission and staff agree that the critical need for caretaker housing makes this CUP a good interim step,” but the larger housing issue needs to be addressed.
Council member Ben Nelson called the conditional use permit “a valid response to an immediate problem” and moved for its approval, which won unanimous support from the other council members.
Jamie’s Place is using proceeds from a “Game Changer Grant” the facility received from the Methow Valley Fund of the Community Foundation of North Central Washington to fund the tiny homes.
The need for more senior housing options was documented in findings from the Senior Assessment for Support and Housing (SASH), a 2021 study conducted by Jamie’s Place in collaboration with Family Health Centers, the Lookout Coalition, Methow At Home, the Methow Housing Trust, Room One and TwispWorks.
Jamie’s Place is currently the only nursing facility within 50 miles in any direction of the Methow Valley. The facility has 12 beds, but would need closer to 40 to accommodate the valley’s senior housing needs.
An added dimension of increasing senior housing is the need for caregivers to go along with that housing.
“Our caregivers are priced out of the housing market. There basically is no rental market except for vacation rentals,” Clarke told the Methow Valley News earlier this year. “Unfortunately, unlike some operations we can’t shorten our hours or staff. To take care of elders, we have to be staffed.”
Among the SASH report’s recommendation is expansion of Jamie’s Place by 20 beds over the next nine years. Any expansion will include affordable housing units for caregivers, Clarke said earlier.
In other business, the council heard a report from Tom Beckwith of La Conner-based Beckwith Consulting Group, which is conducting a study of the area’s housing needs and potential strategies for meeting them. The study is funded by a $50,000 Housing Action Plan Implementation (HAPI) grant from the state Department of Commerce that is shared by the towns of Winthrop and Twisp.
Beckwith said that in addition to its data collection and needs analysis, his firm will conduct stakeholder workshops in both towns, starting in October, to include nonprofits, architects, builders, contractors and others with a stake in housing solutions for the valley. There will also be public open houses in each town later in the year, Beckwith said.
The goal is to produce a report including recommendations for action by spring of 2023, Beckwith said.
The council also:
- formalized an agreement with Methow Trails to collaborate on development of the RiverWalk recreational trail. Methow Trails has assisted the town in seeking easements that would allow construction of the trail to proceed, but had no formal arrangement. Culp said the agreement is needed in case the town needs to reimburse Methow Trails for any services it provides.
- agreed, at Mayor Sally Ranzau’s request, to the formation of a temporary public works/infrastructure committee to help review and prioritize the town’s various projects. “Public Works and planning are getting overwhelmed,” the mayor said. Council members Kirsten Vanderhalf and Seth Miles agreed to be on the committee along with citizen volunteer Bruce Edwards, and possibly others.