Commissioners to consider tools addressing nuisance RVs

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Commissioners’ action triggers future public hearings; Move comes in response to community concerns

OREGON CITY, Or., – Earlier this week, the Board of County Commissioners directed staff to bring forth proposed County Code amendments which would allow for the towing of nuisance recreational vehicles (RVs) and campers, parked in county rights-of-way, which:

  • are being lived in, 
  • are refusing to move despite prior notice and outreach efforts, and
  • are causing health or safety impacts.

While Clackamas County has had the authority to tow abandoned RVs and campers previously, doing so when the vehicle/trailer is occupied presented legal complexities.

There have been consistent concerns expressed by residents for years about both occupied and abandoned RVs in Clackamas County. Often, these concerns have been brought up in public meetings, testimony and county events. This action comes in response to those concerns, and it now triggers two future public hearings on the matter.

Board dedicated to give occupants options

The intent of this action – as stated by staff at the session and urged by members of the Board – is not to leave individuals on the street with nowhere to turn. Importantly, immediately after the motion to proceed with the necessary code amendment hearings, the Board passed a second motion directing staff to bring proposals for actions or programs addressing the needs of the displaced individuals.

At this past Wednesday’s Policy Session, Board Vice Chair Ben West stated: “I think this is a holistic approach … we are putting our noggins together and continuing trying to figure out this difficult problem that has been all too persistent in our community. This is really an example of great local government at work.”

At the session, Clackamas County Undersheriff Jesse Ashby spoke on the proposed change: “We don’t want [towing] to be the first option, and it’s not going to be the first option, and we’re gonna make sure that people have plenty of opportunities to get the services they need.”

County staff have been collaboratively engaged on this effort with partner nonprofits which focus on vulnerable people, including LoveOne and Clackamas Service Center. The county plans to continue
working closely with these and other partners regarding the potential implementation of the proposed amendments.

Numerous county departments were consulted about these amendments, including: the Sheriff’s Office; District Attorney’s Office; Health, Housing and Human Services; and the Department of Transportation and Development. All support the amendments.

Proposed code changes

These changes would only apply to unincorporated areas of the county. Specifically, current proposed language changes to the County Code include that a warrant can be obtained in Circuit Court to remove any occupants:

When it is necessary to tow a vehicle or trailer from public property or right of way that reasonably appears to be currently occupied by a person or persons as their primary living quarters, the Sheriff’s Office may seek a judicial warrant in Clackamas County Circuit Court to obtain authorization to enter and remove the occupant(s), using reasonable force if necessary, so that the vehicle or trailer can be safely towed.

The proposed code amendments further detail that such a warrant shall include: the basis for justifying the tow; health, life and safety impacts caused by the vehicle; the prior efforts to persuade the RV occupant to move and/or address problems; and the prior efforts to offer social services to the occupant.

These changes can be found in the “7.01.090 Warrants” section of the Policy Session worksheet. The full draft changes can be reviewed (in red) in that document, and the Policy Session can be watched in full online.

If the code amendments are eventually approved by the Board, the new authority would take effect 90 days after the final approval, unless an emergency is declared and an earlier effective date is established.

Additional changes

The proposed amendments make additional changes. One is regarding taking the inventory of towed vehicles. Currently, the Sheriff’s Office is required to inventory and list a vehicle’s contents. This section would be updated to clarify that only valuables, weapons, and other items kept by the Sheriff’s Office would be required to be listed in an inventory report for towed vehicles.

Another change clarifies that administrative warrants may be sought when necessary to investigate all types of code violations, as opposed to current language which limits such warrants to the investigation of marijuana offenses and chronic nuisance properties.

The dates of the future public hearings have not been set.