CALDWELL — Following nearly three hours of testimony, the Caldwell City Council voted 5-1 to uphold the Planing and Zoning Commission’s denial of a special use permit for the jail expansion project.
The planning and zoning commission denied the county’s application on Aug. 9.
The motion to uphold the denial was put forward by City Council President Dennis Callsen. Each of the other council members voted in favor of it besides Councilman Rob Hopper.
Callsen said he was concerned with the project not being completed. He also said there are safety and traffic issues.
“I believe this is going to be safety issue for the neighborhood,” Callsen said. “Chicago Street is too fast for traffic.”
Following the council’s decision, a written one is presented to City Council at a later meeting. After council approves that decision, an appeal could occur, Mayor Garret Nancolas said, if it were to be received within 28 days from when the council adopts that written decision.
While the council voted on land use issues, testimony provided to the council for and against the project covered a range of aspects of the jail project including what it would mean for the aging tent facility and how long it would take care of the jail needs of the county.
Commissioner Steve Rule said the county needs additional beds and it needs them now. He said that, for one, the tent facility is a “serious problem.”
Rule and Commissioner Craig Hanson said they want to move forward with the jail expansion as a way to solve bed needs. Both said they would not spend any additional funding on improving the tent facility at this time.
Commissioner-elect Pam White countered Hanson and Rule’s plan in regards to the tent facility. Under their expansion plan, she said, the tent facility doesn’t go away; because of that she said she would like to see more planning.
“It is time to get a long-range plan and decide what will be in the best interest of 20, 30, 40 years out—and not just remodel or add on.” White said.
Rule said the jail would account for the county’s needs for the next 15 years.
“Is it big; does it solve all of our problems; no, I’m not going to pretend to lead you down that path.” Rule said.
Last month, the county hired a firm called Carter Goble Lee to look at the county’s jail plans.
Commissioner Tom Dale pointed out that the contract does not include a needs-based comprehensive plan, which he has been calling for; rather it is comparative of a prior jail plan and the jail expansion.