Conflict over code: Hearing continues for transitional housing rules

August 2018 Posted in Community, People, Your Health

By Paula Mabry

The Silverton City Council will once again take up the hearing on a proposal to amend city codes to set standards for  transitional shelter for the homeless at its Sept. 10 meeting.

The proposal, referred for approval to the council by the city planning commission after two sessions of public testimony in the spring, continues to generate concerns and occasional heated comments.

The council opened its hearing July 2, with more than an hour of supporters and opponents addressing the plan. It continued the matter to Aug. 6, when another hour-plus of testimony yielded warnings of “if you build it they (the homeless) will come;” admonishments that the need is already present in Silverton and should be addressed; and calls for putting the code change on the November ballot.

Both proponents and opponents have submitted dozens of petition signatures and letters in support of their positions.

Public comment is still being accepted, and may be made in person at the Sept. 10 meeting, or in writing by submitting letters to the Silverton City Council, 306 S. Water St., Silverton, 97381 or council email addresses are available on the city website:

An examination of local homelessness  began as an official city endeavor in November 2017, with the establishment of a city Homelessness Task Force.

Action within the community began far earlier. During the frigid nights of December 2016 volunteers opened a “warming shelter” at Oak Street Church where they initially served 16 people.

Organization around the warming shelter eventually led to the founding of Silverton Sheltering Services, a newly formed non-profit. Its goal is to address the local homelessness problem in “a more focused, organized way” according to Board President Brent Jacobsen.

Of the visitors to last winter’s warming shelter at Oak Street Church, 31 individuals were homeless – 25 with strong Silverton ties. Silver Falls School District identifies 70 to 90 students as homeless.

While no plan for transitional housing has been formally submitted to the city, in March the council directed staff to draft code language that would address transitional shelters.

By then the congregation of St. Edward’s Episcopal Church on Center Street was considering four, single occupant, tiny pods for homeless women from the Silverton area. The goal is private, secure, insulated sleeping cottages to get the women off the street and on their way to a more stable and sustainable situation.

In the city staff report on the issue, Police Chief Jeff Fossholm notes “transitional housing has been shown to help the homeless transition back into society on a quicker basis” and suggests small transitional housing units with “controls such as a screening process” may be the best model for Silverton.

The Sept. 10 meeting will be held at the Silverton Community Center, 421 S. Water St., beginning at 7 p.m. An agenda will be available on the city website, or at City Hall. The meeting can also be viewed live on SCAN TV.   

Planning Commission recommendations

Transitional Shelter Communities are defined as: accommodations that may consist of separate facilities in the form of sleeping pods…for use as sleeping units by one or more individuals or families… limited to persons who lack permanent shelter and cannot be placed in other low-income housing.

TSCs would require a city Conditional Use Permit no matter where sited.

Standards in the proposed code are:

1) Allowed on land used as a Religious Institution or Place of Worship or within Industrial, Commercial or Public zones.

2) Units may be stick-built or prefabricated, but no fabric roofs or walls, nor vehicles or manufactured dwellings. Design shall be compatible with surrounding area.

3) Maximum unit floor space 200 sq. ft.

4) Maximum units for each TSC site is one per 10,000 sq. ft. or 10, whichever is less.

5) Only two TSC sites allowed in the city at any time.

6) Length of stay limited to 18 months.

7) Bathrooms and kitchens prohibited in units; common, permanent bathrooms must be available at all times; common kitchen may be provided.

8) Water, sewer, gas and generator service prohibited in individual units; may be provided in common facilities.

9) No outside storage permitted.

10) TSC shall be fenced from abutting properties with sight-obscuring fencing at least 6 ft high.

11) Minimum rear and side yard depth shall be 5 ft.  Minimum from abutting property 20 ft.

12) Minimum structure separation 6 ft.

13) TSC shall be reviewed as a Conditional Use, however, no fee shall be charged for the review.

14) After initial approval, first periodic review shall be conducted at 6 months from occupancy. If renewal is approved it shall be conducted annually thereafter.

15) A financial security (bond, petition, cash, etc. ) provided to city to ensure the removal of improvements should renewal not be approved.

16) The person in charge shall provide local 24/7 contact information to all property owners and residents within 500 feet on an annual basis…

17) TSC tenants must sign form on Noise, Nuisance and Review standards….

18) An operation and security plan must be submitted to the city…

19) Code of Conduct for living in the TSC must be provided to residents and city…

20) Priority given to those living within or near Silverton for the past year.

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