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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Reprieve for Old Town Tent Refuge? Maybe, but City Says, For Now, "Clock Is Still Ticking"

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Thu, Dec 1, 2011 at 4:14 PM

Commissioner Dan Saltzman's office is pushing back, a bit, on a story in this week's Portland Tribune that noted—rather emphatically—that the Right 2 Dream Too tent refuge at NW Fourth and Burnside "may be about to gain semi-permanent status."

Matt Grumm, a policy adviser for Saltzman, confirmed it's possible the campsite could receive a city permit, as a nonprofit "community service," but that the application process is more arduous than the Trib's story indicated: just $700 for an application and a smaller fence along Burnside.

Grumm said the state would first need to sign off, according to its own rubric for concerns like sanitation, electricity and density. Grumm also noted the owners of the camp's private lot had yet to begin the approval process and would probably need to spend heavily on whatever infrastructure would be required to win state approval. That's pretty much what the Mercury reported a week ago—that there's a path forward, but it won't be easy.

"There's no reprieve," he said. "The clock's still ticking."

The Bureau of Development Services warned the lot's owners last month that the campsite currently isn't legal and could eventually face monthly fines of $583. Grumm said applying for a permit wouldn't stop any fines from accruing; it would just keep the city from trying to collect them.

"If they get through the process, it's all forgiven," he says. "But if they say 'forget this process,' we throw the fines back on them. Those fines will continue to accrue until they get legal."

The camp, meanwhile, has been winning over its critics since it opened up October 10, thanks to a stringent code of conduct banning drugs, alcohol, and violence, but also by working to become a conscientious neighbor.

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