The Cottage Grove city council met in a packed house Monday night to discuss the hot button issues in town: the proposed homeless shelter and Community Health Clinic. 

The meeting audio was piped into the city hall lobby and extra chairs were placed in the hallway to accommodate the crowd. Fourteen individuals spoke during public comment to express their discontent with the newly proposed shelter site, the old Covered Bridge Church of the Nazarene, 152 S. M St. 

Chief complaints about the Nazarene Church site included:

A potential drop in property value for homeowners in the area.

A possible build-up of trash and human waste.

Safety concerns.

Its proximity to local schools.

Speakers called the new site a “horrible idea,” “a danger to our community,” and “a handout that won’t work.” 

“We all know there’s a homeless problem. We aren’t the ones that caused it. And neither are you,” resident Art Lancaster said. “This happened a long time ago when somebody in another city basically invited the homeless here. Don’t do this to my grandkids.” 

A flier circulated in the neighborhood surrounding the Nazarene Church called the shelter a “dangerous and unmanaged camp.” The city’s numerous drafts and proposals, however, state the shelter would be managed 24/7, would hold residents to cleanliness standards, prohibit drugs and alcohol on the property, and provide mental health and job readiness resources. 

“I appreciate the concern. I live a half a mile away. I’m very close to that site. I have three kids that play in the street. So I get it,” Councilor Chalice Savage said. “Somebody one time told me, you know, why bring me a problem. Bring me a solution. So I’m hearing a lot of concerns, and I appreciate that. They were shared, they were heard and I would like to hear more solutions.” 

In a special meeting on July 18, the city council will hear public proposals from citizens on their ideas to manage the unhoused crisis and mitigate the impacts of Martin v. Boise, HB 3115 and the city’s new legal responsibility to support unhoused individuals if they intend to restrict camping in public spaces and parks. 

City manager Richard Meyers brought an idea that could contribute to the solution, proposing a new overnight camping program for residents to support unhoused individuals. 

The program would allow public and private property owners to offer overnight camping on their property to individuals or families experiencing homelessness. 

Applicants would work with the city to ensure their properties meet cleanliness standards, provide adequate toilets, hand washing, and trash disposal facilities for campers, and protect unhoused individuals from being charged rent or exchanging labor for housing. 

Applicants would be able to evict campers with 24 hours notice and the city would reevaluate the camper/property owner relationship in the event of any criminal activity. 

After a brief discussion, the council added two provisions to the overnight camping program proposal – a restriction on tent size and a requirement for applicants to reapply on a yearly basis.

The city manager’s office will now take these changes into account and bring the policy before the city at a later date to potentially put it into law. 

The City Council voted to approve the proposed 2022-23 budget with a few minor changes: allocating an additional $3,000 for the farmer’s market, $1,875 for the Singing Creek Educational Center’s summer camp program, and adopting additional city funds. The city funds include an increase in the Cottage Grove Police Department budget to acquire access to an online pawn look-up tool, a placeholder donation to the skate park, and a $95,000 increase in the original fuel budget to accommodate rising gas prices. 

Jim Gilroy, representing Be Your Best, requested the council consider supporting its efforts to have a Community Health Clinic operated by Lane County Public Health in Cottage Grove.

Gilroy asked that $100,000 be added to the budget to support the clinic’s efforts to bring health care to rural Lane County. 

The $100,000 was included in the original proposed budget, reduced by the City Budget Committee and placed in the contingency line item. The motion to set the funding in contingency was done by South Lane Fire Marshall Danny Solesbee and voted on by the rest of the committee, leaving the $100,000 to be voted on at a later date by the council.

Councilor Greg Ervin requested more time and information on the Community Health Clinic, proposing the council vote on the proposed $100,000 during the next city council meeting.

Councilors Candace Solesbee and Kenneth Micheal Roberts called for fiscal responsibility, saying the “clinic will happen with or without our help.” In contrast, Mayor Jeff Gowing, Councilor Jon Stinnett, Councilor Mike Fleck and Savage said that showing city support for the clinic was more important than the dollar amount. 

Further discussion on the Nazarene Church property and Community Health Clinic funding is scheduled for the next city council meeting July 11.