Sky lakes to Appeal Proposed DHS Building

Proposed site of the new DHS building in Klamath Falls is located inside the Timbermill Shores development. February 4, 2019 (Brian Gailey / Klamath Falls News)

Proposed site of the new DHS building in Klamath Falls is located inside the Timbermill Shores development. February 4, 2019 (Brian Gailey / Klamath Falls News)

Sky Lakes Intends to Fight for Downtown Klamath Falls

As a champion of the image of downtown Klamath Falls, its future and increased commerce there, Sky Lakes Medical Center on Friday, Feb. 1, filed notice of its intent to appeal with the Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals (LUBA) concerning the decision by the City of Klamath Falls to allow a proposed social services building along Lake Ewauna.

“We believe the City Council erred when it approved a conditional use permit for the site of the proposed Department of Human Services (DHS) social services building,” said Sky Lakes President and Chief Executive Officer Paul Stewart.

“At the end of a long and elaborate planning process, a citizen’s Planning Commission concluded zoning for that property should exclude social services.”

The Oregon Department of Human Services, under a contract with Rubicon Investments, of Corvallis and Medford, wants to construct a social services building on the TimberMill Shores property.

Putting a social services project where the community has specifically said there should be a mix of retail, commercial and residential development disrespects those zoning decisions. “It violates the will of the community,” Stewart said.

“Sky Lakes is a significant community economic asset and, as such, we believe it is our civic obligation to help the community grow, but not ‘growth at any cost.’   Economic development and the quality of life in our downtown are crucial to, among other things, our ability to recruit and retain physicians and staff. 

“Sky Lakes is the primary recruiter of health care providers,” Stewart said. “It’s already a challenge to bring in new physicians who often view the current downtown negatively.

“A social services project dominating one of the entrances to the city would be an anchor around our ankles,” he said, adding each new provider represents a small business that creates 3-10 new jobs in addition to bringing much-needed health care services to the community.

“In order for our community to attract new businesses and grow commerce, we need to appropriately plan and zone for growth to occur in the best locations. Utilizing the downtown corridor for a welfare/social services site is not the best use of that location.”

Some people have incorrectly suggested Sky Lakes is involved in order to promote the Klamath Community Services Campus along South Sixth Street. That is simply not correct.  In fact, Sky Lakes is on record supporting other locations, including a centrally located, easily accessible parcel along Shasta Way that was the first choice of the Department of Human Services staff in the original RFP process. 

To be clear: Sky Lakes’ opposition is to siting an enormous social services building in a downtown location that was expressly zoned to prohibit that use.

“While we believe co-locating near a variety of other social services would be the best option for the Department of Human Services and its clients, and even though we offered to donate the property at that campus for the DHS building, DHS staff and administrators have made it clear they do not want to be by the Gospel Mission and other services available at that campus.  However, there are other options that are appropriately zoned,” Stewart said.

“We fully support a new DHS building as long as the site is properly zoned for a social services building.”

Other than perhaps Washington, D.C, no community in the nation has built its economic platform around increasing welfare services, Stewart said. “Sky Lakes is taking a leadership role by investing in the long-term future of our community.

“It is our responsibility to recruit health care providers, and having a downtown corridor dominated by social services instead of commercial and retail establishments is not helping that effort.”

Press release provided from Sky Lakes Medical Center.

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