Council talks new rules for homelessness

By Sarah Brown
Lebanon Local
Interim City Manager Nancy Brewer discussed with City Council members new laws regarding homelessness, and how the city is working on identifying public places where people can sleep, during the council’s meeting Wednesday, July 14.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about camping in town and homeless people,” Brewer said.
She briefly presented the rulings in the Martin v. Boise case (2018) and Blake v. Grants Pass (2020), court cases which determined that people cannot be criminally punished or fined for sleeping outside if there’s no place else for them to go.
“It doesn’t say you have to let people camp, meaning build shelters in a public right-of-way,” Brewer said. “You do kind of have to let people sleep in public places if there’s no place else.”
She reiterated that current laws do not require cities to provide shelter or let people build fires or structures.
Laws do not allow people to set up a tent in Academy Square, for example, or sleep at Ralston Park during closed hours, she said.
Brewer also noted that a few related bills were passed in Oregon during the 2021 session, including HB 3115, which requires cities to identify public places where people can sleep (but not camp, or build fires or structures).
“It does allow us to assign some objectively reasonable limits on where those places would be located,” she said.
Working with the homeless task force in Lebanon, staff have identified publicly owned property within city limits that is owned either by federal, state, county, or the city, and eliminated locations in such sites that are determined to be inappropriate for sleeping.
Examples of such include the water and wastewater treatment plants, pump and lift stations, riparian areas, and land near railroad tracks.
“We’re trying to look at some publicly owned places that would be appropriate for people to sleep, and we can take that list to the task force,” Brewer said.
HB 3124 requires 72 hours notice before clearing a camp, with restrictions on what the city does with items removed from the camp.
“(We need to start) looking at how we operationalize this, and put together some criteria that we would like the task force to maybe consider how we would set reasonable accommodation limits,” she said.
Brewer also mentioned that the city has neither the resources nor staff to open a shelter, but it is something that perhaps one or more organizations might pursue some day.

In other business, the city council:
♦ Approved an ordinance to vacate a storm drainage utility easement on Stoltz Hill Road following a public hearing;
♦ Approved a resolution to include delinquent sewer and storm drain charges for customer without water service to be included in Resolution No. 2021-09 for levying taxes. Delinquent sewer charges of $18,948.58 and storm drain charges of $4,291.46 were updated at the end of June;
♦ Authorized the submission of an application for a Department of Land Conservation and Development Planning Assistance Grant. The grant would allow the city to hire a consultant to assist with the development of a Housing Production Strategy, which is required by the state for medium-sized cities due to House Bill 2003.
The law requires the city to study future housing needs and develop strategies that encourage production of housing their residents’ needs. The HPS will outline a list of specific tools, actions and policies that the city plans to take to address the housing need identified, including the city’s plan and timeline for adopting and implementing each strategy.
♦ Approved a resolution that allows the City of Lebanon to accept a $4,000 grant awarded to the city from the Oregon Cascade West Council of Governments. The grant comes from CARES Act monies to assist economic development activities.
The city partnered with the Lebanon Downtown Association to apply for the grant to help fund the LDA’s annual Art Walk, which will be held Aug. 6 this year.
♦ Approved an ordinance amendment to extend permitted electric fencing. Current language in the municipal code limits electric fencing to agricultural uses within city limits. The approved amendment allows electric fencing around commercial storage facilities in industrial and mixed-use zones.
This change comes as a response to a constituent whose storage facility in the city has been experiencing break-ins and theft.
♦ Entered into an agreement with Consumers Power, Inc. transferring ownership of a radio tower and related equipment on Peterson’s Butte from the city to CPI. The city maintains use of the site, but will no longer need to make lease payments for access. The city will lose revenue from lease private entities, but lost revenue is lower than annual costs.
In exchange, CPI will maintain the city’s existing fiber network, and the city will pay a pro rata cost for extensions.