A second proposed location for a residential shelter for homeless youth has been denied by the Sitka Planning Commission, following neighborhood pushback. What’s next for the $2 million-dollar federal project is uncertain.

In January, Youth Advocates of Sitka tried to purchase a duplex on Dodge Circle that would house their new residential mental health treatment program, Coastal Haven. YAS won around $2 million dollars in congressional appropriations through Senator Lisa Murkowski’s office to build a facility that would provide residential mental health services for teens and young people who were victims of trafficking or otherwise at-risk, from across the state and in Sitka. 

But because YAS was looking at a duplex in a residential zone, they had to secure a conditional use permit from the Planning Commission first. But their application was met with pushback and a petition from members of the Dodge Circle neighborhood, and that weighed heavily on the commission’s decision to deny the application.

So Youth Advocates went back to the drawing board, and they changed some of the stipulations for the program. It now focuses more broadly on teens who are at risk or have experienced homelessness or trafficking. While it would also serve teens who are referred from communities around the state, according to a letter submitted to the commission, YAS has identified three local teens who would qualify for the program.  

They found a large duplex oceanside of state highway Halibut Point Road. They planned to ultimately house twelve young people from age 16 up to 21 at the home, a slightly younger demographic than they’d previously proposed.   

Planning Director Amy Ainslie says the new proposal saw more community support than the Dodge Circle proposal, including a letter of support from the Sitka Women’s Club. But it was also met with equal pushback. Ainslie says during public comment the commission was presented with a petition with around 40 signatures opposed to the facility. 

The commission was split as well, and Ainslie says the group spent some time deliberating whether YAS’s proposal qualified for the permit. The Dodge Circle location would have been accessed from an easement, a sidestreet that’s privately maintained and generally intended for lower traffic. With the new property, residents would not only access it from a state road, but the highway would act as a buffer between the facility and most other neighborhood properties.

The YAS application failed 2 to 3 with commissioners Katie Riley and Wendy Alderson in favor, and commissioners Chris Spivey, Darryl Windsor and Stacy Mudry opposed. 

KCAW reached out to YAS Executive Director Heather Meuret, who did not return our calls by press time. YAS has ten days to appeal the planning commission’s decision.