Sweet Home to create exclusion zone

Sweet Home to create exclusion zone

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Men hang out at a fence line near Speedee Mart in Sweet Home in October 2019.

SWEET HOME — After several months of discussion, the Sweet Home City Council on Tuesday evening approved the creation of an enhanced law enforcement area from which repeat criminal offenders can be banned for up to 90 days.

According to the new ordinance, “enhanced law enforcement areas are designed to protect the public from those whose illegal conduct poses a threat to safety, health or welfare.”

The area will run from Fourth Avenue on the west to 22nd Avenue on the east, the railroad tracks on the north and Kalmia Street on the south.

A person can be expelled from the area for up to 30 days for being cited to appear and/or arrested for three or more instances of unlawful behavior within a 12-month period. The expulsion can be expanded to 90 days if the person has been expelled within two years.

Activities that could lead to expulsion include homicide, rape/sodomy, menacing or recklessly endangering, intimidation, harassment, disorderly conduct, discharging weapons, providing liquor, minor in possession of alcohol, and more.

The action came on a 5-2 vote with councilors Courtney Nash and Lisa Gourley voting no. Nash believed the ordinance would only push people from the the downtown area into residential neighborhoods.

Sweet Home residents and business owners have grown tired of criminal activities in the community's downtown core, some of it precipitated by a growing homeless population.

Albany and Eugene already have exclusion zones.

When the council first addressed the ordinance in October, Police Chief Jeff Lynn said it would provide law enforcement with a tool to exclude repeat offenders.

In other business, the council:

• Had a first reading of an ordinance that would ban transients from camping at bus shelters. The proposal is designed to ensure the shelters are used by bus riders. It would prohibit lying down or across the shelter seating or floors and placing items on the seats that prohibits others from using them.

• Approved a lot line adjustment for the former city water treatment plant property at 1730 Ninth Avenue, purchased by Tony and Shelly Larson. The city will retain a small slice of the property — about one-tenth of an acre — to allow public access to the South Santiam River. The property will be added to a lot at 1755 Ninth Avenue, which is owned by the city.

• Approved a lease of 10 acres on Long Street and 42nd Avenue, known as the rodeo grounds, from the Ellis family for $2 for another year. The city and the Ellis family have had an agreement for many years, but the family is considering its long-term plans for the property.

• Learned that the Community and Economic Development Department in December issued housing permits for projects with a total estimated value of $629,000.

• Learned the Police Department’s Christmas Kids program hosted 35 children aged 4 to 12. Each child was given $75 for shopping at Bi-Mart with local officers or deputies. Another 63 teens received gifts through the Santa Blue Sharing Tree.

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