By Tom Henderson • Staff Writer • 

Council bans camping on public property; passes sewer fee increase

People caught camping on city property risk getting arrested and sent to jail under a law passed by the McMinnville City Council Tuesday night.

The law allows people to sleep on public property, but they are prohibited from camping between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m.

Additionally, the law bans sleeping on public property in the urban renewal district (basically downtown McMinnville), in public parks, parking lots and on public property in residential neighborhoods.

What's left, said Police Chief Matt Scales, is public industrial and commercial property or any public property they can find outside the forbidden areas.

The new law also applies to RV and car camping. People living in RVs and cars along Northeast Dustin Court and Marsh Lane will have to find other places to park their vehicles during the day.

Scales told councilors at the meeting the west sides of Dustin Court and Marsh Lane will be painted with yellow stripes early next week, making them fire lanes and prohibiting any kind of parking whatsoever. Creating the fire lanes was a decision made by fire department officials independent of the new law. Vehicles parked in the new fire lane could be towed and impounded as soon as the lines are painted.

Violators would be subject to impound fees and other financial penalties.

The fire lane on Marsh Lane will extend to the second driveway and the gates of McMinnville Water & Light. On Dustin Court, the fire lane will extend through the cul-de-sac at the end of the street.

Violation of the new camping ban will be a Class C misdemeanor and punishable up to 30 days in jail or up to $1,250 in fines. Police also have the authority to impound people's vehicles and confiscate their belongings left at campsites.

 Scales said police will begin enforcing the law after 30 days, giving officers time to educate people living on the streets about the new rules and also give them a chance to find alternative places to sleep.

Councilor Remy Drabkin voted in favor of the law during its first reading but abstained during its second reading and passage.

The council passed a ban on camping on public property last Aug. 28, but the city decided it could not enforce the law following a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals a week later.

The court ruled that cities cannot arrest people for sleeping on public property when they have no alternative.

Drabkin said the council's Aug. 28 law could be enforced if the city invested in adequate housing for people experiencing homelessness.

Scales responded that city officials have been talking about alternative housing for four years, and the new law gives his department the immediate and practical means to respond to  homelessness.

Also Tuesday night, councilors created a new franchise fee that increases local sewer rates by 5 percent to bring an additional $500,000 into the city's general fund. The increase goes into effect Monday, July 1.

Although councilors have discussed using the money to address homelessness issues, it has yet to be earmarked for any specific purpose.

The lack of specificity concerned councilors Zach Geary, Adam Garvin and Sal Peralta; Geary and Garvin ultimately voted against the fee increase.

Councilors held their meeting at the McMinnville Community Center to accommodate a crowd of about 300 people.

A total of 18 people offered their comments on homelessness -- with 13 people expressing anger over the issue and the remaining five urging the councilors to view people living in tents, cars and RVs with greater empathy and compassion.

See Friday's News-Register for more. 

Comments

Bill B

See, that wasn't hard. I don't envy the officers who will have to enforce this though.

bonnybedlam

This really helps me appreciate the full depths of despair some homeless people must feel right before they commit suicide. If that was the department's intention, good job!

Tuvey

There is something wrong with passing a 5% sewer fee increase to go to the general fund without a specific reason. I don't think that increase would have passed a public vote. Kudos to Geary and Garvin for voting against it.

TTT

How can you have a sewer fee increase go directly to the general fund? This seems like open robbery. Furthermore everyone with water service will pay this fee, which includes low income folks on the edge that are actually trying to pay their bills. Punishing those that pay, so we may pay for those that won't even try... This is sad.

Rotwang

Enough with this fee nonsense. It's a tax. But, I hope that the new law gives the bums incentive to move elsewhere.

David S. Wall

"The law allows people to sleep on public property, but they are prohibited from camping between 6:30 a.m. and 9:30 p.m." there is a potential for serious liability issues arising with this "invitation." The consideration is the "invitation to sleep at certain hours without fear of arrest and or impounding of personal property."

Absent a "signed indemnification of McMinnville for any and all injuries" the taxpayers of McMinnville could be "on-the-hook" for significant damages should any injuries occur arising from this idiotic policy.

As to raising the Sewer fees for the General Fund; McMinnville voters should "vote" to change the "City Charter." A "language change" making "all fee increases" to "tax increases" will dampen promiscuous money takings from the citizenry by politicians who should not have been elected in the first place.
David S. Wall

madmacs

So confiscating what little these people have seems like a solution? If they have to be moving during the day where do you think they will go? I'd place my bets on downtown; with no alternative in place this ordinance is just going to make the situation worse.

CubFan

A 5% sewer increase, on top of an already planned 2.8% increase is absurd. And to top it off, by their own admittance, the city council is unable to guarantee this money will go toward the homeless situation. Thank you city councilors Geary and Garvin for having sense enough to see how ludicrous this is. This is a dilemma: trying to find a compassionate solution to the homeless problem, and passing on a very large fee to taxpayers to fund it, “on paper” at least. And just where will the RV’s and tents will go during the day? It seems to me the city council caved in to public outrage and made a decision, albeit a poor one. Is there any recourse the public has to protest the 7.8% sewer increase?

Stella

Where will they go during the day? IF you move them along they will eventually head to another town that allows camping and has abundant services.


PS. Isn't a fire lane painted red vs yellow?

Stella

Ps. Geary and Garvin can stay - RECALL the rest

OregonBorn

@bonnybedlam,

What are you saying exactly?

That we should put up with crime, filth, public drug use, etc?

You are part of the problem and your ridiculous hyperbolic statement won’t change that.

Jim

Matt Scales thank you for doing what you have done for our community. This process won’t be easy but you and your team will get it done. Somebody finally had the guts to step up and do what is right .

Drew1951

Instead of complaining with no positive ideas, why don’t we try working together to find solutions? People living on the streets ARE people. Those who call them lazy bumbs are clueless. Twenty years or so ago a mantra was, “What would Jesus do?” Maybe we would benefit from reinstating that today.

Stella

Drew1951

We have a solution. Laws apply to everyone. Everyone is responsible for themselves and their life and if they choose to not work and drink/do drugs and choose to label themselves "outsiders" who choose to live this way (refusing help) - McMinnville isn't a town that accepts your lifestyle and it's taxpayers are not ok with enabling you.

Want to better yourself? Want a shelter, job and a better life? Contact/walk over to YCAP

madmacs

@stella They have as much a right to be downtown as anyone else. Selectively "moving them along" is going to cost the city a small fortune in lawsuits. This half baked plan is going to backfire.

Stella

Madmacs

Totally agree they are just as welcome to work and shop and abide by the laws everyone else does!

Just like "everyone else" they aren't allowed to camp there.