A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Council gives church a porta-pot permit

Written November 21st, 2019 by Hasso Hering

The portable toilet outside First Christian Church, photographed in March.

Albany City Council discussions about the portable toilet outside a downtown church are probably over — for one year, at least.

On Wednesday, the council voted 5-1 to grant the First Christian Church a “waste nonconnection permit” as allowed under the city development code. The permit — in the form of an email application submitted by the church — is good for one year but can be renewed for additonal one-year periods as long as the church applies each time.

The church installed the portable outhouse last fall to solve a problem, namely homeless people relieving themselves on the grounds around the building as they were hanging out there after partaking of the church’s periodic free meals. City officials said portable toilets are not allowed there, even though there are many such facilities for public use at city parks and school sports fields.

The church appealed to the council, and in August four councilors said all right, the thing can say as long as the chuch applies for a permit.

The lack of an official Albany portable toilet permit form did not prevent the church from following through, and the council said OK again on Wednesday.

Councilman Mike Sykes didn’t like it. He said this was a “slippery slope” leading to other such requests. He objected that the church didn’t have to pay a fee for the permit. People shouldn’t be camping on the church’s parking lot, and having the outdoor toilet encourages them to do just that, he said.

Councilor Rich Kellum, who had objected before, didn’t this time. But he encouraged the church to patrol its parking lot to discourage unauthorized camping.

With luck, we will have heard the last of this for now. But a year from now, it will probably come up again. (hh)

15 responses to “Council gives church a porta-pot permit”

  1. John Hartman says:

    It seems certain Albany’s councilors are uneasy about unauthorized camping and public urination. Councilor Kellum was specific as Hering writes. “Councilor Rich Kellum…encouraged the church to patrol its parking lot to discourage unauthorized camping.”

    By the way, the church parking lot where the porta-potty is located is private property.

    Based on a personal experience, it seems that Kellum’s angst extends to some private property owners, but not to others. Let me explain.

    About three years ago, I wrote to Councilor Kellum, asking him to, at minimum, have a talk with the management over at the Walmart store about the substantial numbers of “campers” who spend the night parked in the Walmart parking lot. Summers see particularly heavy use of the Walmart KOA. This, in spite of the fact that the Walmart parking lot is posted with several signs saying “No overnight parking. Violators are subject to towing.”

    My concerns had to do with many of the “campers” who use the parking lot and flowerbeds at Walmart as porta-potties, apparently so they don’t fill their waste tanks nearly so quickly. Because I live nearby, I often walk through the Walmart lot and have witnessed this disgusting behavior several times.

    When I wrote an email to Councilor Kellum, outlining my concerns, Kellum responded by saying, to the effect, that the Walmart parking lot is private property and he would do NOTHING to impede Walmart’s private property rights.

    I asked him and Councilor Johnson if they could, at minimum, have some sort of discussion with the Walmart management about the issue, but Kellum replied that he’d do nothing, while Johnson hid her head in the sand and did not respond to the concerns at all.

    With this in mind, I read, with great interest, that Councilor Kellum does seem willing to impede on private property rights when it comes to the Homeless urinating on lawns, He initially opposed the church’s efforts to install the porta-pottie until now. Apparently, if the church is willing to submit to Kellum oversight on an annual basis then he is willing to bend his rules. One might even say he’s interfered with the church’s private property rights.

    Yet, Councilor Kellum would not and will not take 5-minutes of his precious time to call on Walmart, asking them to police their parking lot so neighbors don’t have to be horrified by wealthier folks with 250-thousand dollar Winnebagos relieving themselves on the macadam.

    It seems that in the Albany City Council’s mind, and particularly in Councilor Kellum’s thinking, that not all private property rights are the same and not all public urination is equal. Thank you, Councilor Kellum, for your even-handedness on these matters.

    • Rich Kellum says:

      Hi John, I am glad to see that you are using your real name for a change.
      The City has people who do enforcement, so when you continually complained about Walmart, it was that enforcement who did something about it as you well know… it will be interesting to see what new name you come up with to say snide remarks about us.
      love Rich

      • Jon Stratton says:

        I find it interesting that you have no rebuttal for refusing to interfere in WalMart’s so-called private property rights but have no problem doing so to the church. This is blatant hypocrisy. So, why? Address the actual point of the comment, not your petty problems w/ the submitter’s capacity to irritate you.

      • My REAL Name John Hartman says:

        The City Councilor writes:

        “The City has people who do enforcement, so when you continually complained about Walmart, it was that enforcement who did something about it as you well know.”

        Councilor, Given your response, I am forced to accept one or more of the following conclusions:

        Since the two-or-three year time span since I first asked you and Councilor Johnson specifically to assist on this matter. If you recall, I acknowledged that the WALMART parking lot is private property. You may also recall that I made a suggestion that you might consider having a chat with Walmart. Since then the volume of folks using the Walmart Parking Lot as a free KOA has only increased, with summer being particularly busy – somedays as many as 5 or 6 motorhomes, fifth-wheels, vans and old school buses.

        Consequently I am forced to consider the possibility:

        You may or may not have ever mentioned the problem to City Enforcement. The first hand evidence I see on a near-daily basis would tend to make one believe you perhaps failed to inform the City Enforcement.

        If you did address the issue with City Enforcement, perhaps you did a poor job of doing so. It is difficult to know.

        All I do know is that there has been a growing number of folks camping overnight in WALMART, some with generators going, barbecues fired-up and babies crawling around on the tarmac. All this in spite of your claim to have somehow solved the problem.

        (a short aside) The Albany Police Department and its Community Policing Unit have consistently provided quick, courteous, and timely policing whenever they have been asked to intercede in this neighborhood’s time of need. So, I have no beef with City Enforcement or APD.

        The Councilor’s attempt to deflect from the porta-pottie vote, (something of a whiplash from his previously stated public position), using a lowly constituent as his whipping boy is highly reminiscent of the current occupant of the White House.

        Lastly, I only continually complain about the ever-increasing numbers of overnight campers in WALMART because, in spite of your apparent best efforts, the problem has not gone away….has not tapered-off, and there seems no end in sight. Were the problem to disappear, then my “constant complaining” would likely end.

        • centrist says:

          1. You brought up the Walmart issue, not the councilor.
          2. The Council doesn’t have direct authority over what happens in that parking lot.

  2. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    It appears this is only half a solution.

    Does the porta-potty have a hand-washing sink, hot water, soap, and a clean towel?

  3. Bob Bush says:

    I’m not homeless………lot of people are not homeless………use retail…….gotta buy something……not a public restroom…….gotta pee……gotta pee…..use a public bathroom…..ok ok ……point me to a public bathroom downtown that was open on a parade day??…..or after business hours??……anybody??….anybody??…….gettin old…..gotta pee….gotta pee……………never mind, the old/new street lights are coming on.

    • Ray Kopczynski says:

      “point me to a public bathroom downtown that was open on a parade day?”

      From my parade viewing spot, I could see a couple of portapots just outside of City Hall. I didn’t look for others…

  4. Gordon L. Shadle says:

    I think Jim Engel had a great response on a previous porta-potty story:

    Put one at city hall and call it a “suggestion box.”

  5. C. Jeffery Evans, AICP says:

    And of course, it’s not ADA-compliant. So I guess the homeless wheelies are going to continue going where they’ve been going. Par for the course.

  6. Ray Kopczynski says:

    Have to ask… The porta-pot has been there for many months now. Has there been any “rise in crime” and/or police calls to that location *because* it being there? If so, I sure haven’t heard of nor read about any…

    • centrist says:

      Pertinent question. After the predictions of dire consequences early on, and now with the stuff above, the burning point should be — what have we learned from this social experiment?


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