Decision on tent city is final, official tells crowd of 500
Seattle Times Eastside bureau
That's despite recent organizing attempts of opponents, who formed a lobby group, started a Web site and hired a lawyer and a public-relations consultant. The opponents' last opportunity may come in the next few days when they are likely to seek a court injunction aimed at stopping the proposed camp from setting up in fields next to the Brickyard Road Park & Ride.
Despite strong emotions on both sides of the issue, the atmosphere at last night's public meeting in the sanctuary of the First Evangelical Lutheran Church was like a community carnival.
Gone were the hostility and outrage that erupted at a community meeting last week. In its place were coffee and doughnuts and greetings from church representatives and six King County workers handing out fliers.
The temperature was hot but tempers stayed in check during the tightly controlled meeting that Edmonds called to educate the public about the county's decision. Moderators enforced strict "ground rules" prohibiting interruptions, while the presence of a half-dozen law-enforcement officers made it clear that no nonsense would be tolerated.
One of the few interruptions came when Edmonds told the crowd that "this meeting is not about revisiting the decision" to let up to 100 homeless people use the fields, about a mile south of the church, for up to 90 days. The area is near some apartments.
"We don't want it," someone called out. "It's on public property," another added before a moderator stepped in.
County Executive Ron Sims told the crowd of his own initial opposition to a tent city that came to his Seattle neighborhood church.
"All the community and the parish grew because we realized our deep fears about people who are poor and temporarily homeless were ill-founded," he said.
Tent city sponsors SHARE/WHEEL, who signed an agreement with the county last week to move to the park and ride, said they turned down recent offers from local churches to host the camp. They said they did not want to back down in the face of "fear and anger and prejudice" and wanted to educate the public about homelessness.
Several neighbors who spoke against the tent city said they welcomed the homeless into their community but thought the park and ride was the wrong place to host them. They also said they were angry they had not been involved in a public process to determine the site and were not advised of the plans.
"In that process our very livelihoods have been violated," said Jack Devine, a spokesman for the newly formed opposition group Brickyard Area Community for Fair Process. "None of us are bad people. We are a caring and loving community with established links and bonds."
Resident Scott St. Clair got an ovation from the large group of opponents when he thanked the county for uniting the community in opposition in a way it had never been united before.
Outside the meeting, some opponents complained that the county had carefully staged the gathering.
"I'm upset at this location," said Dollie Costers. "They knew there would be so much control that people would not get to express their concerns."
But representatives from the First Evangelical Church said they were happy with the peaceful gathering. The new Tent City 4 near Bothell will begin with 20 or 30 core members Monday, when Tent City 3 at Lake City Christian Church in Seattle disbands and splits into two camps. The other camp will move to Seattle's Cherry Hill Baptist Church.
In another development yesterday, resident Chris Clifford sent an ethics complaint to county Ombudsman Amy Calderwood alleging Sims would "arbitrarily allow these people to squat on this property," had blocked enforcement of various county laws and gave special treatment to SHARE/WHEEL.
Nick Perry: 206-515-5639 or email@example.com
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