Frisco looks to marina parking lot to ‘house’ Unsheltered in Summit members
Frisco Town Council voiced full support for finding a new location for Unsheltered in Summit’s safe parking program, likely near the Frisco Bay Marina.
The next challenge for the group lies in getting an ordinance written and approved before Unsheltered in Summit needs to vacate its temporary location at the Breckenridge Justice Center on Sept. 30.
Town Attorney Thad Renaud said it’s possible the town could execute an emergency ordinance to expedite the process. Unsheltered in Summit stakeholders also said they would ask the Summit County Sheriff’s Office for an extension.
In April 2022, the group lost its original location at the Agape Church north of Breckenridge due to construction. The group moved to a short-term, seasonal solution at the Breckenridge Justice Center, but Summit County Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said program officials were told at the outset that the group would need to leave the lot by Oct. 1 to make room for the county’s contracted plow company’s house-sized vehicles, which he said can pose a serious safety risk.
“We never know when it’s going to snow,” FitzSimons said, and, “We’re not going to endanger the lives of people we’re trying to protect.”
Since it will lose its temporary home at the Summit County Justice Center, Unsheltered in Summit approached the Frisco Town Council Aug. 9 to ask for its support in finding a new parking lot to house its members in Frisco. Stakeholders with the Unsheltered group requested 10 to 15 spaces in a relatively quiet, secluded, low-light and level area. The parking area can have other uses during the day — since 24/7 access for members is desired but not a necessity — and the area can have designated times for other uses.
The group’s Justice Center location only offered 10 spots, but the group currently has a waitlist to join.
Community Development Director Don Reimer said the town could expect to hear from some “not-in-my-backyard” people depending on if and where the town chooses to locate the safe parking program. Depending on which lots are chosen, councilor Andy Held recommending fielding feedback from neighbors.
Stakeholders with Unsheltered in Summit said their members often go unnoticed and abide by a set of rules.
“I’m ready for the NIMBY’s,” Mayor Hunter Mortensen said. Concerns about the program were unfounded, he said, and he said people would be surprised by how many contributing locals were living out of their vehicles. Several council members raised their hands when councilor Rick Ihnken asked who had lived out of their car by choice.
“They go and they work their eight-hour days and come home and work in their car,” FitzSimons said, supporting the program. “These are contributing people to our community.”
Staff provided a handful of proposed locations for council to consider. Parking lots at the marina could be used in the winter, and the lot at 602 Galena, which is tentatively scheduled to change hands from the state to the town on Oct. 28, could work. Some county-owned lots could also come into play following a meeting with county officials on Oct. 4 to discuss the Frisco Transfer Center and the Medical Office Building.
Some private lots could also be used, pending the support of the owners. An owner at 90 S. Madison Ave. in Frisco offered their parking lot as a potential solution after council’s last discussion with Unsheltered in Summit representatives, town staff wrote in their summary. But Reimer said nothing had come of that yet.
The upper parking area of the new Medical Office Building at 68 School Road could be suitable, too. The lot is rarely used as overflow parking, staff wrote. Staff said they provided contact information to the Unsheltered group.
Town staff nixed a few other potential lots, some of which Unsheltered in Summit proposed. The town looked at the Willow Preserve trailhead and the “Boneyard” area at the Peninsula Recreation Area, but staffers determined they should not be pursued for various reasons, including potential user conflicts and snow storage.
Two lots recommended by Unsheltered would require outside agreements: the Kayak Lot near Interstate 70 at the town’s western end is subject to a lease agreement with CDOT, and the Giberson Day Use lot is subject to an agreement with the U.S. Forest Service. Unsheltered reached out to Rocky Mountain Bible Church as well, but the church declined to participate due to potential conflicts with evening events, the staff wrote. And, lastly, the Frisco’s Nordic center was not recommended because of likely user conflicts, town staff wrote.
Frisco Town Code does not permit overnight camping in passenger vehicles, so a code change from council would be required to allow permitted groups to camp overnight on town property. An amendment to the code would be required to create an area for overnight camping in passenger vehicles on public or private property.
Town code defines recreational vehicles like “campers,” but many who take advantage of the Summit safe parking program sleep in common commuter vehicles, so council would need to craft more language to define and permit camping in passenger vehicles.
“If we can’t find 10 spaces in our PRA, that’s working towards ‘no,’ not working towards ‘yes’,” councilor Andrew Aerenson said.
Council added it wanted to find more long-term solutions specifically for the local workforce, but its members said they still see Unsheltered in Summit as a positive force for housing workers.
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