Clackamas County Commission approves code changes for transitional shelter communities

At the end of a public hearing at which 13 people spoke, the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners approved zoning amendments to allow transitional shelter communities as a conditional use on light or general industrial land outside city limits.

The new ordinance would support county efforts to provide a transitional shelter community for houseless veterans, currently being considered for a site in the Clackamas Industrial Area.

Board Vice-Chair Paul Savas, a major proponent of the project, noted that “This is a step in the right direction; part of the solution to help people get into permanent housing and jobs.”

Commissioner Martha Schrader, who has been working with Savas on the initiative, asked people who testified at the hearing – business people, veterans, advocates for the homeless – to work with the county to help move forward on the project.

“Anything is better for our veterans than living under a bridge,” Schrader noted.

  • Operated by the government or by another entity approved by the Director of County Health, Housing and Human Services in consultation with the County Administrator;
  • On land owned by the county;
  • That may provide support services (food, clothing, etc.).

The code also requires transitional shelter community operators to have plans for parking, security, lighting and pets, and to comply with a variety of standards, including:

  • Detached stick-built or prefabricated structures for shelters, up to 200 square feet, with no plumbing or outdoor storage; tents, yurts and membrane structures are prohibited
  • Water, sanitary sewer, natural gas and generators prohibited in shelter units, but permitted in common facilities
  • The community must be fenced
  • Shelter operators must provide common bathroom and kitchen facilities

The code amendments will sunset after two years or the approval of three projects, whichever comes first; an approved conditional use permit must be implemented within two years, and a shelter community will lose its conditional use permit if it stops operating for at least a year.

The board is scheduled to take final action to approve the new ordinance at a business meeting later this summer. The draft amendments acted on by the board are available online or by contacting Planner Andrew Yaden at 503-742-4578 or ayaden@clackamas.us.

For more information about the proposed ordinance, members of the media and public may contact Jennifer Hughes at 503-742-4518 or jenniferh@clackamas.us.