Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Friday, Nov. 3, 2023 @ 11:37 a.m. / Community, Local Government

Brookings Planning Commission to Consider Changing 'Benevolent Meal Service' Times

Jan Smith and Kelley Nolan, Smith River United Methodist Church volunteers, provide lunch for the Brookings community at St. Timothy's Episcopal Church in May | File photo: Jessica C. Andrews


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As St. Timothy Episcopal Church’s challenge makes its way through the federal court system, Brookings staff is asking planning commissioners to consider changes to an ordinance governing “benevolent meal services.”

Planning commissioners on Tuesday will consider changing the number of days an organization in the city can provide food to the needy from two days per week to three days per week. Staff are also proposing cutting the number of hours from “no more than three hours per day to no more than two hours per day,” according the city’s staff report.

Under the city's land development code, organizations, including local churches, can feed the hungry up to two days per week between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. with a conditional use permit. The city also stipulates that “no benevolent meal service shall last more than three hours per day,” according to the existing ordinance.

The proposed changes come about two years after the Brookings City Council adopted the ordinance in response to complaints of increased homelessness near St. Timothy’s 401 Fir Street church and Azalea Park.

According to Public Works Director Tony Baron, the City Council has final approval on the amended ordinance.

Organizations wanting to feed the hungry within the Brookings city limits would still need a conditional use permit, according to Baron.

“The ordinance only recommends a change to the number of days and number of hours,” he told the Wild Rivers Outpost via email on Wednesday. “The process remains the same.”

According to the city’s staff report, one reason for the proposed ordinance change include an “unpermitted” provider wanting to offer meals on their existing schedule, which is three days per week.

Changing the hours would allow organizations to offer meals every day of the week — “as was the initial desire of the benevolent meal providers; with all current benevolent meal providers being permitted (if unpermitted provider applies for permit),” according to the staff report.

Staff say that modifying the hours can allow for more flexibility in emergency situation such as a fire with other “permitted providers” stepping in without the city having to adopt an emergency resolution.

“This change retains the existing requirements for permits, including hour restrictions from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., to minimize impact on R-1 neighborhoods,” the staff report states.

Brookings staff’s proposed changes to the benevolent meal service ordinance comes as both the city and St. Timothy is seeking summary judgment in the church’s federal lawsuit challenging the ordinance.

When asked if the proposed revisions were suggested with input from St. Timothy’s or other providers, Baron told the Outpost that the city can only communicate with the church through its attorneys.

The church’s pastor, Father Bernie Lindley, said St. Timothy didn’t request the proposed changes to allow three meal days per week instead of two.

“It’s not even acceptable to us,” he said. “We feed four days a week, so I have no idea why the city staff is making this recommendation to a change to that ordinance. We’re not interested in getting permits for anything.”

In its motion for summary judgment, St. Timothy states Brookings' benevolent meal service ordinance violates the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000, the First and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution and sections two, three and eight of Article 1 of the Oregon Constitution.

In its motion for summary judgment, the City of Brookings argues that the church’s lawsuit falls under the category of “no deed goes unpunished” — that staff were responding to a 2021 complaint signed by residents living near the church.

The Brookings Planning Commission will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday in City Council Chambers at 898 Elk Drive in Brookings. The agenda packet can be viewed here.


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