New CG city ordinance could mean relief for area homeless

While the topic of a proposed homeless shelter in Cottage Grove has been at the center of community and City conversations over the last several months, new sections of law enacted by Oregon’s 2022 Legislative Assembly - Oregon Revised Statutes (ORS) 195.520 – may be the key to providing quick and less expensive relief for those experiencing homelessness, not to mention people who have been impacted by shortfalls in affordable housing.

At the June 27 City Council meeting at Cottage Grove’s City Hall, City Manager Richard Meyers gave a report detailing an Overnight Camping Program that could be adopted by the City.

Meyers reviewed a new ordinance with the City Council that would add a new chapter, Chapter 8.40, to the City code. The ordinance would create a camping provision for individuals and families that are homeless living either in vehicles or tents. The provision would allow individual property owners to host an individual or a single-family on their property.

The purposed ordinance was stated thusly: “Persons experiencing homelessness may sleep overnight in the yard of a single-family residence in a residential zoned district with written permission of the owner and tenant of the residence… Not more than one family may sleep in any yard and not more than one tent… may be used for sleeping in the yard. As an alternative, but not in addition to sleeping overnight in the yard, not more than one family may sleep in a vehicle parked in the driveway of a single-family residence in a residential zoned district.”

Property owners and tenants of religious institutions, places of worship, businesses, and non-profits would be extended the same abilities described above save one difference. The rules allotted them would be the same in all ways except that they would be allowed to host two individuals or two families on a given property instead of one.

The language describing the Overnight Camping Program can be viewed on the City of Cottage Grove website at by scrolling down through the City Council Agenda overview to section 8, “Business from the City Council,” item “A.”
Meyers suggested several revisions to the already-drafted verbiage of Chapter 8.40. He and members of the Council discussed the particulars of application requirements and renewal, what the definition of “family” should be, and how best to limit the size of tents that could be used under the new provision. Mayor Jeff Gowing suggested that the tent dimensions allowed might match the size of the largest storage structures allowed under City Code before it requires inspection by City staff.

The Council considered other details as well, including language that would ensure tents used under this provision be relegated to peoples’ back yards and what might trigger the City to review or revoke an individual’s or a family’s application.

Not discussed at the City Council was the duration that those experiencing homelessness could stay on any one property. The Cottage Grove Sentinel reached out to Meyers for comment regarding squatter’s rights laws and what might happen should one of the parties on a given property seek to get a restraining order against another party, but Meyers did not return answers to these inquiries before the Sentinel’s press deadline.

On the Overnight Camping Program memorandum made available at the June 27 meeting, it was noted that City staff would make modifications to the ordinance draft in order to present it “for consideration and possible adoption at the next City Council meeting.” The City Council meets every second and fourth Monday of the month, meaning that the Chapter 8.40 addition to City Code could be up for review as soon as July 11.