Downtown Advisory Board Wants New Zoning Restrictions for Homeless Facilities

  Last week, the Downtown Advisory Board asked City Councilors to consider zoning restrictions for homeless facilities. Councilors voted to dismiss the proposals. 

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED: The Corvallis Downtown Advisory Board presented the City Council with a set of recommendations regarding the location and operation of social services facilities in the downtown area. Mainly, these recommendations focused on facilities that administer aid to the city’s homeless population.  

The board members would like to see the City Council implement a series of measures that would function to usher what the Gazette-Times referred to as “low barrier/high impact services” to areas where “negative impacts would be lowest.”  

This would involve sharpening the city’s definition of such social services facilities in order to then place a moratorium on locating new ones in the downtown area. The board also recommends amending the land development code to require a public hearing prior to the authorization of any new social services facility.  

After receiving the board’s recommendations, councilors voted 7-1 not to forward them to council leadership for further action. Ward 2’s Charles Maughan made the motion not to forward the recommendations. Councilor Barbara Bull was the lone dissenting vote. 

WHY THE RIFF: Downtown residents and businesses have long complained of public defecation and urination in their neighborhoods, as well as increased crime. The downtown area serves as the base for two low barrier emergency shelters, and a low barrier daytime drop-in center. 

City Councilors do not see land use code as the problem. 

Some of the councilors, such as county commission candidate Nancy Wyse, contend that enforcement is the crux of the problem – that police can make arrests, but that it doesn’t matter, because there is no county jail space to house the arrestees. In essence, ‘catch and release’ is how the situation is often described. Voters have turned down ballot measures to build more jail space.