The Hermiston City Council will discussed proposed changes to its zoning rules on Monday, Sept. 14, that would allow for temporary emergency shelters in the city's industrial zones.
The city's planning commission put together the suggested changes at the request of the board of Stepping Stones, a new nonprofit formed with the goal of creating a homeless shelter in Hermiston.
The proposed Stepping Stones project would offer small private huts to about 25 homeless individuals, couples or a parent and child. The huts would not have running water or electricity, but residents would have access to showers, restrooms and an indoor gathering space.
According to organizers, residents would only be allowed on the property in the evenings under supervision, and would have to earn credits to stay by completing volunteer hours, jobs, education or other approved efforts. The group hopes to place the shelter in a fenced-in area between the Agape House and Theater Sports Park.
The zoning change before the council on Sept. 14 would not give approval for the Stepping Stones project, but would create rules that would allow for such projects if someone applies for and is granted a conditional use permit. A few of the rules listed, as recommended by the planning commission, include requiring that the shelters be at least 1,000 feet from a school or park, must be behind a sight-obscuring fence at least 6 feet tall, must provide restrooms and showers, and must follow safety guidelines, such as providing smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors in each hut.
The council will also discuss amending the city's code of ordinances to allow for the municipal court to issue "administrative warrants" that would authorize city staff to enter a property for code enforcement purposes, such as cleaning up a property that has been declared a nuisance.
The council will also consider acceptance of a letter of resignation "for personal reasons" from city councilor Doug Smith, who currently represents Ward IV. According to the city's charter, the city will need to hold a special election for Smith's seat because he has more than two years left in his term.