Brookings Council

All the seats were filled during a Brookings City Council workshop addressing homeless issues and other matters.

Workshop topics during a Jan. 6 Brookings City Council meeting drew a full house.

In response to the larger-than-usual crowd, Mayor Jake Pieper clarified that the purpose of a council workshop is to gather information and seek additional input from staff, before deciding whether to forward items for a regular council meeting.

Public input is not solicited at workshops, he said, but he encouraged such contributions during the scheduled regular council meetings.

Mill Beach

The topic that attracted the biggest crowd was a discussion about potentially closing Mill Beach to camping. Most of the audience departed following that discussion, which detailed the increasing number of field contacts by park rangers - from one in 2016 to more than a dozen in 2019.

Over one two-week period last summer, staff reportedly had to clean up three different encampments, at a cost of $695 in dump fees, plus labor.

From aggressive behavior to littering, uncontained sewage, illegal fires, dog waste and trespassing (which spills onto neighboring properties), said Dani Padilla, the unit manager at Harris Beach State Park, “Mill Beach is taking up a lot of our time.”

Larry Becker, the southwest district manager for Oregon State Parks, said the staff has limited enforcement authority and can issue a citation only if they see an infraction being committed. And to issue a citation, the recipient must be willing to comply, he said.

Most of the time, the transient campers at Mill Beach have learned they can just walk away from rangers, with little recourse for park officials.

The City of Brookings continued to allow camping inside the city limits during two prior discussions, in 2009 and 2016. Mayor Jake Pieper said that previously, favorable reviews of camping on Trip Advisor and other websites indicated it was a popular destination for bicyclists and hikers of the Coastal Trail.

That said, current feedback to councilors suggests visitors and residents no longer feel safe using the beach.

Padilla said she has seen only one camper who was compliant and legitimately camping at the park over the past seven months. Any problems there seem to be caused by the same one to two dozen people on a regular basis, she said.

Other cities in Oregon prohibit camping on the beach, including Cannon Beach, Lincoln City, Seaside, Newport, Bandon, Gold Beach, Rockaway Beach and Manzanita.

To add Brookings to the list, the city would submit a letter to the Oregon Parks and Recreation director requesting a rule change, which is then taken up at a rulemaking session during a regular meeting, with public comments and a public hearing later held in Brookings.

The parks commission subsequently would review comments and make a decision at its next meeting.

The Brookings councilors agreed to move the topic to a regular City Council meeting.

Social Security Bar

Councilors reviewed a draft lease for operating Social Security Bar and asked questions of Curry County Parks Director Josh Hopkins. Councilor Bill Hamilton said he was dissatisfied with the lease price of $1 per year, asking, “How much money have we spent putting this proposal together?”

Councilor Brent Hodges wanted to confirm that the hours of operation would still allow fishermen to access the gravel bar during the early morning and evening for boat launching and pickup operations.

Hopkins said the bar would be closed only if it was flooded. Otherwise, day-use area hours would apply within reason for the camping facility.

In answer to a question by Hamilton about policing, the law enforcement would switch from the Oregon State Police, which currently patrols the bar because it belongs to the state, to the Curry County Sheriff’s Office should the property come under county parks management, Hopkins said.

The councilors agreed with Hopkins that the presence of a camp host at the site would deter many of the illegal activities taking place on the bar.

Councilors agreed that some wordsmithing in one section of the contract about bar access would easily resolve most of the city councilor’s questions.

Hopkins let the city know that the lease of the gravel bar from the Division of State Lands relies on a conditional-use permit, for which a hearing is scheduled on Feb. 20.

The contract now will go to the City of Brookings attorney for review, before proceeding to the next step.

ADU Code Revisions

The Brookings Land Development Code has provisions for accessory dwelling units (ADU) within the subsection of workforce housing. The current code contains provisions that now are not allowed under new state law HB 2001.

A requirement for owner occupancy of the property and a requirement for off-street parking need to be stricken from the code.

The matter was referred to the city’s planning commission for review of the entire ADU section and then back to the council for a decision at the end of February.

Homeless Resources

The final agenda item was a variety of options to revise the land development code to include services for homelessness as a use. The code revisions would allow for temporary (seasonal) housing options for homeless individuals and families.

Councilors discussed options that have been implemented by the cities of Coos Bay and Eugene. Staff requested direction for which ideas to pursue.

City Administrator Janelle Howard suggested not trying to take on all five options in the Coos Bay model at once, but to start smaller. “We don’t have a budget for something like building a tiny-home village,” she said. “We could actually complete the process of temporary housing.”

Temporary lodging facilities would be “actually doable,” because they would be done by private individuals and churches instead of the city.

The councilors narrowed the list of doable actions to temporary indoor shelters (such as churches), car camping, and camping on private property, because those options don’t have significant capital outlays to get started.

Requirements in both the Eugene and Coos Bay ordinances require sanitary and garbage services at sites, plus provisions for security.

Public Works Director Anthony Baron said the Coos Bay plan is a seven-page ordinance, “that’s soup to nuts, covering a lot of subjects we’ve spent time discussing. We do not even have a process right now for a church to set up a temporary housing facility, where (having this in place) would.

“Inside of their ordinance, it talks about the permitting process… It’s a way for us to solve some of our local problems.”

The city’s planning commission would be able to use the Coos Bay model to specify processes for property owners to apply for a conditional-use permit to operate temporary shelter options.

It was decided the proposal will proceed to a future city council meeting.

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