City & Government, Creswell

Creswell OKs ordinance for unhoused

CRESWELL – The Creswell City Council at Monday’s meeting unanimously approved an ordinance that permits unhoused camping, rather than prohibits it – a unique approach that satisfies a previously split council while also satisfying state law. 

Instead of listing the locations where the unhoused can rest, the ordinance lists all the locations they cannot, and also has established regulations for time, place, and manner. 

And while the ordinance doesn’t explicitly designate a location for the unhoused to sleep, reading between the lines of exclusions and prohibited locations, one location is not listed, and is therefore available. 

“It leaves the pocket park across the street” from City Hall, said Michelle Amberg, city manager, referencing the small park at the intersections of South 1st and C streets.

Because there is technically a place for the unhoused to rest, even if it is not explicitly stated in the ordinance, city attorney Ross Williamson said he is confident the City’s ordinance is compliant with state law. 

With an unhoused population averaging between six and 10, council has been working to come into compliance with state law since February. 

Under the Eighth Amendment, federal and state courts have ruled that criminalizing homelessness is unconstitutional if there is no available alternative for people to sleep. Creswell has no shelters or resources available for the unhoused. 

That means that Creswell, and most cities in Oregon, have been charged with designating a time, place, and manner for the unhoused – meaning cities need to be able to direct the unhoused to a safe, dry space for them to rest without retribution, so long as they are compliant with the established regulations. 

“There are a lot of opinions surrounding (this issue),” Amberg said. “This is not an easy topic, and it’s not something that you chose. It’s something that’s been put on (council’s) shoulders, and you have to respond to it in order to keep us out of lawsuits.” 

As the July 1 deadline to come into compliance with the law loomed, council was split between designating the pocket park location, or not naming any location at all. 

“There were strong feelings about not naming a location,” among the council and the community, said Mayor Dave Stram on Tuesday morning. “When the council realized we could create an ordinance that doesn’t name a location and fully satisfies the requirements of the law … we came together and said, ‘We can accomplish this. We can get it done. This is acceptable.’”

Councilor Nick Smith at last month’s city council meeting suggested the City take a page from Roseburg’s book, whose ordinance doesn’t designate a space for the unhoused to sleep; instead, the ordinance simply lists all the sites where one cannot sleep. 

Stram said that he met with other Lane County mayors last week during a roundtable discussion, and “it became clear that none of (the mayors) were naming a place. Rather, they were permitting sleeping on city-owned property and listing very carefully where it was not permitted, which is a different approach.”

Council also made amendments to the ordinance, which include: 

  • Animals must be securely attached to their owners or be crated at all times. 
  • Camping is prohibited in the following locations adjacent to any residential zone or any properties of residential use regardless of zoning, including:
    • Within 1,000 feet of an educational facility
    • Within 100 feet of a public library 
    • Wherever camping materials create a physical impediment to emergency or non-emergency ingress (entrance) and egress (exit) or access to property, whether private or public, or on public sidewalks or any public rights of way
    • Any vehicle lane, bicycle lane, or any public right-of-way
    •  Immediately adjacent to any city-owned buildings 
    • Airport property 
    • Water or sewer treatment facilities or water storage sites 
    • Adjacent to the fire district building
    • The following parks: North 1st Street Pocket Park, 2nd Street Park, Cobalt Pocket Park, Bicycle Wayside Park, Garden Lake Park, Harry Holt Memorial Park, and Grassland Park. 

Shelly Clark, councilor, “triple checked” with Williamson, asking if this ordinance is still “objectively reasonable and meets all of the criteria” the City needs to meet to come into compliance with the law.

“In my opinion, yes, so long as this (ordinance) allows someplace in the city for the unhoused to rest, which I understand it does,” Williamson said. 



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