County Considers Waiving Fees And Allowing Temporary Housing For Fire Victims
County Council Wayne Belmont discussed with County Commissioners steps the county can take to help homeowners who have been impacted by the Echo Mountain Fire. He explained that there are ordinances in place with the emergency declaration that allow the commissioners to waive or modify fees. Onno Husing the county planning director recommended waiving fees for those whose homes have been the primary residence.
This would mean the county could potentially mean a heavy hit to the county budget, and could affect revenue losses up to the next ten years, however he added that isn't what the ordinance is about "it is about helping those who have suffered and everyone doing their part from an awful situation and trying to make things just a little bit better" said Husing. Christina Shearer, the county finance director said any reduction in revenue will reduce the general fund but was quick to point out that these fees would not have occurred if this event had not happened.
Commissioner Hall stated "we want to send the message that the county does care and wants to help people to be able to rebuild as quickly as possible." This would be for a five year period retroactive from September 8th 2020 to September 2025. Commissioner Jacobson stated she wanted to make sure that the goal is to get the area rebuilt with workforce and family housing.
Also discussed was how the construction excise taxes for the School District that is also hurting those who are trying to rebuild. Commissioner Hall reached out to the School Board chair and others and looked into the wording of the law and according to the legislative office in Salem, the district does not have the power to waive those fees after an emergency, such as the fire. Rob Bovett with League of Oregon Counties is working on drafting legislation that would help enable waivers in emergency situations.
Commissioners also heard from Mr. Belmont about waiving prohibitions that are currently in place regarding having temporary housing, such as an RV, that people are living in on their property after loosing their homes in the fire. Nearly 300 homes where destroyed by the Echo Mountain complex fire and many are now displaced. The ordinance would temporarily allow emergency housing accommodations and would waive code enforcement with registration. The registration would be for up to one year and could also help to provide more services for those in need. Staff is working on a draft of the ordinance of each that will be brought back to commissioners for approval next week.