Resolution Easing Church Restrictions Fails; Neighbors Speak Out Against Juniper Ridge | Local News | Bend | The Source Weekly - Bend, Oregon
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Resolution Easing Church Restrictions Fails; Neighbors Speak Out Against Juniper Ridge 

A recap of Wednesday’s Bend City Council meeting

City of Bend Councilors Bill Moseley and Justin Livingston’s attempt to bar the use of city funds for enforcing pandemic-related restrictions at churches failed Wednesday on a five-two vote, with only Moseley and Livingston voting in favor. Moseley introduced the resolution, which read:

“The City of Bend shall not use city monies, equipment, or personnel for the purpose of enforcing pandemic health policies, which single out and discriminate against faith-based organizations or members thereof.”

  • Darris Hurst

During the meeting, Livingston said he supported the resolution because he perceives a disparity between faith institutions and retail stores.

“There are churches in this city, not many of them, that operate and occupy retail spaces,” Livingston said. “They sit in strip malls. Yet they’re at a lower capacity limit of 25% or 100 people, whichever is less, versus the retail store that’s right next door in the same building under the same roof.”
Under Gov. Kate Brown’s new COVID-19 framework, Deschutes County currently falls under Oregon’s “Extreme Risk” category, which restricts retailers to 50% capacity indoors. During the meeting, Bend City Manager Eric King said he spoke with the Governor’s office about its rationale on the thresholds.

“The amount of time that people spend together in a church is different than retail in terms of being in that space in close proximity for a prolonged period of time. The science shows there’s more likelihood for spread,” King said.

While the item wasn’t on the meeting agenda, Moseley defended the urgency of the motion due to last week’s Supreme Court ruling on New York’s restrictions on places of worship, and the advent of Oregon’s new COVID-19 risk levels.

Bend City Attorney Mary Winters stressed key differences between the New York and Oregon laws, and she said discrimination claims regarding state law usually fall to the courts rather than the local City Council. She cautioned against the City Council picking and choosing which state laws to enforce. Bend Mayor Sally Russell agreed.

“If we have a problem, if faith institutions do, or any other group, definitely appeal this at the state level,” Russell said, “I think that’s the place where these conversations should be held.”

Fire and School Safety Concerns Continue over Proposed Shelter at Juniper Ridge in North Bend

During the meeting, the City Council also heard concerns from neighbors regarding the proposed temporary shelter for the unhoused in the Juniper Ridge area on the north side of Bend. Nine people expressed concern over the proposed camp’s proximity to schools and a potential increase in garbage, fire danger and neighborhood foot traffic. King clarified that the City Council is “just exploring feasibility” for the project right now. Over the past couple years, 80-100 people without permanent shelter have camped in the area. On Oct. 21, the Bend City Council created an Emergency Homelessness Task Force and voted to explore the possibility of a temporary transitional shelter at the site.

The City of Bend will have listening sessions Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 with members of the northeast Bend community and other interested stakeholders, King said.

“We’ll be updating council Dec. 16 in a work session on the feasibility of that shelter. So, no decisions have been made.”

UPDATE 12/5/2020: Links and call-in information to access the Dec. 15 and Dec. 16 online listening sessions about the shelter at Juniper Ridge will be posted here.

About The Author

Ashley Moreno

Ashley is an amateur cook, trained chemist and aspiring forest hag. Until she can move into a small hut in the woods with her chihuahua, Grendel, she passes her time playing board games and watching movies. She loves all things crafty, from brewing beer to crocheting amigurumi. She joined the Source in 2020.
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