BEND, OR -- eschutes County Commissioners need to find a location for a managed camp before enforcement of a new unsanctioned camping code can begin in November. An available property east of Bend and outside the Urban Growth Boundary doesn’t meet state requirements, but they are still looking for paths forward.
The site east of Bend is zoned Exclusive Farm Use. County Commissioner Phil Chang Monday proposed smoothing the way for necessary changes, "I wanted to raise the question about rezoning that property, as a potential way of reducing either political or legal challenges." He suggested helping the property owner with soil tests. But others suggested it could lead to potential conflicts with county and state land-use laws down the road.
Commissioner Patti Adair still wants the state to approve a waiver for that site, but said there are now more options, "The Governor’s office, though, did send us 23 properties - on Friday night at almost 7 o’clock. So, I forwarded that on and they should be sending those out. They do have six properties that are five to 50 acres; 23 properties in total." She added, "There’s some good parcels there, but honestly, I want to drive around and see them." Commissioner Chang asked, "Are any of those within the city of Bend?" Adair responded, "All 23 of these are within the UGB."
Adair isn't giving up on the east Bend parcel. She noted she talked recently with the head of Shepherd's House Ministries, "He said their group would be willing to be at the table, as far as people running it - so, to be considered for that. Because that’s going to be really important for the county to have." Adair suggested the lot could be included in a broader county plan, along with state land.
Following Governor Tina Kotek's visit to Central Oregon last week, she issued a joint statement with Commissioner Adair, Bend Mayor Pro Tem Megan Perkins and Redmond Mayor Ed Fitch:
Our conversation last week made clear that Oregon’s housing and homelessness crisis impacts every part of the state and requires urgent leadership across all levels of government. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution. Deschutes County has unique challenges when it comes to addressing unsheltered homelessness, which has become increasingly acute and visible in recent years.
Our best chance at moving individuals out of homelessness is to provide a clear path to transitional housing, rehousing, support and wrap around services. As city, county, and state leaders we recognize the need to build more housing and to provide practical alternatives to tent camping such as safe park sites and tiny houses that meet health and safety standards and steward Oregon’s land use system.
We are committed to working together with urgency as winter approaches to ensure safe, accessible sheltering options for Deschutes County.