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Bend councilors agree to proceed with two possible sites for managed homeless camps

(Update: Adding video, comments; Council bans fireworks through Dec. 1)

One off Northeast Ninth Street, the other off Southeast Third Street; Juniper Ridge also again under consideration

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Bend city councilors got an update Wednesday evening on an array of efforts to tackle the problem of homelessness in the community and gave staff the go-ahead to examine two locations identified for possible managed campsites.

According to city Recovery Strategy and Impact Officer Carolyn Eagan, the first location under consideration is off is NE Ninth Street just north of Bridgeford Boulevard, between Bend Senior High School and Bear Creek Elementary and immediately south of First Presbyterian Church.

The second site is a roughly 1.5-acre property owned by the Oregon Department of Transportation near Southeast Third Street, south of Murphy Road and the Les Schwab Tire Center.

The potential for that site is contingent on a successful negotiation agreement with ODOT.

Eagan says the city will begin conversations with adjacent neighbors, coordinate site visits with Bend Park and Recreation (the Coyner Trail is near the first site), and open a request for proposals from service providers to manage the camps.

She says the camps will have quiet hours, rules on how to resolve disputes, running water, and portable sanitation services. The city is also looking to create space for campers to put up tents, RVs or cars.

Eagan added that adjacent neighbors can expect demarcation of the boundaries such as fences, a total of 15-25 people at each site, and a 24-hour phone line available, should community members need to reach social service providers after hours.

While neighborhood concerns will be addressed and the city will seek public input, Eagan promised the community: "It is different from what you see at Hunnell Road (and) on China Hat. There will be a schedule. There will be order. There will be rules to hold each other accountable."

The city also is again considering whether to have such a camp at Juniper Ridge, after an earlier, controversial proposal was shelved late last year.

The current goal is to have one managed camp up and running by October at the earliest and a second by November.

Here is the PowerPoint presentation given to the council Wednesday evening:

Councilors also dealt with some more longer-range issues, such a discussion (off and on for decades) about a proposal to create a new, larger City Hall, for current and future needs. Even 20 years ago, there was talk of a larger City Council meeting space, as big hearings drew an overflow crowd, many of whom sat or stood in the hallway and watched on TV (before the pandemic put virtual meetings online)

The growing city government outgrew the more than 20-year-old City Hall many years ago and is now in five nearby buildings – and even with that is cramped and packing more people in each office and former meeting rooms, City Manager Eric King said.

"We want to have enough space to grow into, and I think we're looking for a much different building type than what we currently have, that allows for a lot more flexibility," King said. "'Hoteling' is the concept that gets thrown about, where you might have a much more hybrid working environment, so think of using space in a very different format than we currently are." 

For context, city staffing has increased by 60% since 2015.

The city hired Cushman & Wakefield to look for possible new locations (or to expand in place), Along with the various criteria outlined for further review, Councilor Melanie Kebler asked that they consider the impact on any displaced businesses. Much of the discussion has focused on the Central Business District on the city’s Eastside.

But there won't be a new City Hall any time soon. The current timeline could be anywhere from 2-5 years.

Councilors also had a presentation on a group's ambitious vision for a “midtown crossing" greenway that could connect east and west parts of the city split by the parkway and railroad, showing concepts of an iconic overcrossing bridge that could cost some $35 million, of which $20 million was identified.

The city council also agreed to extended its fireworks ban and the city issued this news release:

Bend City Council ratifies emergency declaration prohibiting fireworks use through Dec. 1, 2021

Tonight, the Bend City Council ratified a local emergency declaration prohibiting the use of all fireworks within Bend city limits through Dec. 1, 2021. The emergency declaration identifies ongoing drought conditions and extreme fire risk as the need for this additional fire prevention measure. The prohibition on fireworks use was supported by Council during its Aug. 4 meeting as a way to preserve public safety and mitigate fire risk until the Council is able to consider a permanent prohibition on the sale and use of fireworks in Bend later this year.

Under the emergency declaration, use of any fireworks is a class A civil infraction and carries a penalty of a fine up to $750. The City is asking for the community’s support in keeping Bend safe by complying with the ban on the use of fireworks through Dec. 1. Community members can report the use of fireworks via email at fireworks@bendoregon.gov. Use of fireworks posing an immediate risk to people or property are emergencies and should be reported by calling 911. Response to all 911 calls for service are based on priority.

During the August 4 City Council meeting, a majority of the Council indicated support for a permanent prohibition on the sale and use of fireworks in Bend. Councilors directed staff to draft Bend Municipal Code amendments prohibiting the sale and use of fireworks. Those proposed amendments will be presented to Council during a work session later this year, before a formal vote on the issue.

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Alec Nolan

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