BEND, OR -- Deschutes County Commissioners have approved what they’re calling a public health and safety plan for 50 acres of Juniper Ridge north of Bend. Community Development Director Peter Gutowsky says unsanctioned camps have taken over the area north of Bend, and staff found numerous problems while investigating complaints from the public. He told Commissioners Wednesday, "The presence of human waste, solid waste and illegal structures that have wood-burning apparatus. Those factors in the Community Development Department’s responsibility represent a series of code violations, and in our purview, an imminent public health and safety issue."
During the discussion, Commissioners Tony DeBone and Phil Chang disagreed on the best way to deal with campers in the area. "We cannot allow these bad situations to evolve just by watching it get worse and worse over time," said DeBone. Chang responded, "That’s right, we need to do something and shuffling people from one unauthorized location to another is not doing something." Chang believes campers will simply move to another area where the county will have to again pay for clean-up in the future. DeBone complained Chang was "only seeing the negative" instead of what he views as positive changes, "We do have leadership happening here now. It isn’t talking about somebody else doing something some other day; it’s talking about doing something and doing something today." Chang replied, "Yeah; and I’m saying that what you are voting to do right now is basically just incurring more costs for the people of Deschutes County, and not solving any problems."
The argument continued for several minutes, until County Health Services Director Janice Garceau interrupted, "We’re doing a lot of fighting about this issue and we all want the same thing, which is safety and compassion for everyone in our community. I think we can get there together and I really want to be at the table with you to explore solutions together. One request I have is that in this discussion, we remember to talk about the people impacted first and most, as respectfully as we can."
Commissioners eventually approved the code enforcement action and remediation, which could cost around $200,000; Chang abstained from the vote.
They also discussed a potential ordinance allowing safe parking in unincorporated areas, in an effort to provide a sanctioned site for people living in cars or RVs.