A new ordinance designed to get homeless campers off the street and establish an overnight parking program was approved by the City Council on Monday night.

The City Council voted 5 to 2 to enact rules designed to close a homeless RV camp on 10th Avenue and Necanicum Drive and present alternatives for overnight shelter.

Tom and Roxanne Veazey, who live near 10th and Necanicum, see this as the first step toward clearing the camp.

“It’s a start,” Roxanne Veazey said. “In the long run, what they did in putting all those people in the Necanicum lot didn’t do any service to those people. They’re not going to walk over into the bathroom to use the restroom, they’re going to use the bushes. Then they’re going to take whatever comes out of their sewage and they’re going to put it in the trash.”

The ordinance is intended to protect the safety of residents and regulate the use of public and private property by establishing time, place and manner guidelines for homeless camping. It puts in place a permit program for temporary overnight camping on both residential and nonresidential properties. Vehicles, including vans or motor homes, would need to be registered in compliance with vehicle insurance responsibilities.

Without locations for people to go, “then basically the public streets are fair game,” Police Chief Dave Ham said. “The fact is that if we don’t have locations to identify for somebody to go with the least impact on the community, neighbors, houses in the area, then they’re going to go wherever they please. We have to either provide shelter or we have to provide public locations for them to be able to camp.”

Overnight camping permits, from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., would be valid for three weeks, at which time they could be renewed.

While individual parking or camping locations were not designated, proposed locations for limited numbers of permitted vehicles include parts of Shore Terrace, Necanicum Drive, parts of Broadway, Avenue G and Mill Ponds Park.

Camping would be prohibited at all public park areas, public parking lots, restrooms or publicly owned properties within residential zoning districts, along with U.S. Highway 101, Avenue U, Wahanna Drive, First Avenue to Avenue A, Necanicum Drive and other locations. Violators could be fined $25 per day.

‘Don’t push it off to somebody else’

Many in the vocal audience at the City Council meeting said they were confused by conflicting court rulings and interpretations of the law.

“Don’t push it off to somebody else,” James Hoffman, a resident, told city councilors. “Do your job. Do what you’re supposed to do by being in these seats. Fix it. I’m tired of seeing junk, needles, drugs, everywhere we go. I’m tired of being harassed.”

The 10th and Necanicum “RV experiment” is a disaster, Bruce Rosebrock, a resident, said.

“Needles, drugs, RVs with ‘for rent’ signs, increased theft in the neighboring blocks,” he said. “Who pays for the storage? Who pays for the demo? Lots of unanswered questions. Get this ordinance right and vote ‘no’ tonight until you have the right parameters in place. If this City Council gets it wrong and this town goes down the toilet, that’ll be quite a legacy for all of you.”

Others questioned how the city would force campers to move, the expense associated with the process, daytime parking issues and the potential lure of “free camping” for people from outside the area.

“I don’t understand why they just get to be there for free,” Linda Iles Martin, a resident, said. “You don’t get to camp for free, everybody has to pay something. That’s just part of our civilization, of our society. And these people are trying to screw up our societal program here. You just don’t get to go camp in front of somebody’s house.”

Throughout the process, city officials have said that without an ordinance with options for the homeless, the camp on Necanicum could not be cleared. But Josh Marquis, a former Clatsop County district attorney, said those interpretations were incorrect. He challenged the tenet that the city needed to enact the ordinance before starting eviction.

“I think this is a really serious misunderstanding,” Marquis said.

The City Council ultimately relied on advice from City Attorney Dan Van Thiel to proceed with the reading of the ordinance before putting it to a vote. “I’m suggesting that we get this off the table,” he said.

Mixed response

City councilors were mixed in response.

City Councilor Tita Montero, an organizer and member of the homeless task force, asked for a new look at the ordinance. She said the camp on Necanicum could be cleared with or without the ordinance. “It’s our property. We have the right to put rules on anybody who was staying on that property,” she said. “I’m also very concerned that we have yet to hear from CIS (Citycounty Insurance Services), our insurance company, on a review of this ordinance. We have passed an ordinance without proper review. I’m very disturbed about this.”

City Councilor Dana Phillips also voiced concerns that more study was needed.

City Councilor Randy Frank said it “was the right thing to do.” Councilor Steve Wright said the measure was the best way to give police the tools to enforce regulations.

Mayor Jay Barber and Frank, Wright, City Councilor David Posalski and City Councilor Tom Horning voted for the ordinance. Montero and Phillips voted against it.

The ordinance goes into effect in 30 days.

City councilors agreed to consider additional public comment for amendments in a workshop scheduled for May 9 before the next City Council meeting.

“My concern is to defend the rights of both the housed and the unhoused,” Barber said. “And I think we’ve got to work together to refine this ordinance so that it covers both bases.”

Recommended for you

(1) comment

Truth Seeker

The city council decided against the will of the people they represent and put a ill planned ordinance into effect. Mayor Jay Barber is not running again, council members Frank, Wright, Polaski and Horning need to be examined before being allowed to represent the city. The city attorney Dan Van Theil had zero useful input, and should have his license reviewed for negligence. Props to Josh Marquis for attending and presenting the facts, which were ultimately ignored.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.