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‘Do we have that opportunity at Deschutes County?’: Commissioners discuss starting safe parking program

Similar to programs in Bend, Redmond

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Deschutes County commissioners are considering adopting a safe parking program that allows people to live in their cars in designated areas, similar to what's been started in Bend and Redmond,

A discussion at Wednesday's meeting focused on the possibilities for safe parking in the county,  so no vote was taken. Commissioners are looking to other safe parking programs in the area for guidance. 

"Safe parking is one piece of that strategy to create authorized, planned, managed, structured places for people to go to help them take steps out of homelessness," county Commissioner Phil Chang said.

Commissioners heard from staff about adopting a safe parking program for the county outside of city limits.

Commissioner Chair Tony DeBone said, "The safe parking concept is working in the city of Bend and Redmond. It's kind of a managed two-, four-, six-RV -type camps in maybe a church parking lot or behind a business. And we're really trying to figure out, do we have that opportunity at Deschutes County?" 

A staff report outlined three options.

A staff member said, "One is the status quo not to adopt a safe parking program. Option two is to draft a safe parking program within the urban growth boundaries of the county that would be outside of the urban growth boundaries of Bend and Redmond. And option three is to adopt a program which goes beyond the urban growth boundaries."

Deschutes County is able to create a safe parking program inside an urban growth boundary, according to House Bill 2006. But, there's uncertainty about whether safe parking would be allowed in the unincorporated parts of the county outside the urban growth boundaries. 

The board asked staff to come back with two possibilities for the safe parking program. 

One is to allow commissioners to approve safe parking sites within an urban growth boundary and the second would be within a mile outside an urban growth boundary. The possibilities will be drafted and then presented for board consideration. 

Deputy County Administrator Erik Kropp said, "Both the city of Redmond and Bend have those programs that are are successful. So we'll be looking at those programs to model them after those existing programs that are successful."

The city of Bend's safe parking program allows overnight camping --  the property must be owned by a business or non-profit and there's no formal city authorization required. There's also transitional overnight parking  in Bend requiring case management or supervision. The city manager approves or denies applications. 

In Redmond, the safe parking program is operated by religious organizations, non-profits and is limited to up to six vehicles. The property owner applies and has to get approval from the Community Development Department. 

 Two possibilities are being considered, so in case one isn't approved by commissioners, the other could move forward. And there will likely be a public hearing, for people to testify.

Article Topic Follows: Government-politics

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Kelsey McGee

Kelsey McGee is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Kelsey here.


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