Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Wednesday, Sept. 20 @ 5:03 p.m.
Brookings City Council To Review Planning Commission Decision Concerning St. Timothy's Next Month
Brookings City councilors will review a Planning Commission decision that affirmed a city abatement order threatening fines against St. Timothy Episcopal Church for its community outreach programs.
The City Council voted unanimously in favor of the review at a special meeting Tuesday that lasted a little more than five minutes. The meeting agenda was made public on Monday and stated the topic of discussion was “consideration of initiating proceedings to review Planning Commission decision on file No. APP-1-23 pursuant to BMC 17.152.40.”
There was no staff report included with the agenda and St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church was not mentioned by name.
“The city attorney recommended the City Council exercise its authority in the code you just quoted (BMC 17.152.40) and provide an interpretation of the code regarding what uses are allowed for a conditional use permit by a church in that zone,” City Manager Janell Howard told Councilors. “The reason this special meeting was scheduled is the code specifically requires it be done within 15 days of the day of that final order.”
Howard said the matter will come before the Council for a public hearing some time in October, either the 9th or the 23rd.
The Brookings Planning Commission issued a final order on Sept. 5 denying St. Timothy’s appeal against a Brookings abatement notice threatening to fine the church up to $720 per day for its community outreach programs.
This order came after the Planning Commission held a public hearing and took an official vote on Aug. 1, voting 4-2-1 to deny the church’s appeal with commissioners Gerald Wulkowicz and Cody Coons dissenting.
Commissioner Ray “Skip” Hunter abstained from voting at that Aug. 1 meeting.
Brookings issued its abatement notice against St. Timothy, threatening fines for operating a “benevolent meal service” without a conditional use permit.
The city also took issue with its day program, which includes offering showers to the needy, providing a place for the unhoused to charge their cell phones and use the internet as well as access to legal aid and other services the city says is not allowed in a residential area.
The city’s public works director, Tony Baron, said officials became aware of the church’s other programs, in particular its legal aid service, as part of the discovery phase of the federal lawsuit St. Timothy has filed against the city.
The church’s pastor, Reverend Bernie Lindley, said an ordained member of the church staff, Cora Rose, is an attorney and a member of the Oregon State Bar. Providing legal assistance to “people who cannot get it any other way” is part of her ministry, Lindley told the Outpost in August.
Though she’s a paid member of the church’s staff, Rose offers her services to those who need it for free, according to Lindley.
Planning Commissioners accused the church of operating a business, “specifically legal services.”
St. Timothy filed a federal lawsuit against Brookings in January 2022 after the City Council approved an ordinance three months prior requiring charitable institutions to apply for “benevolent meal service” permits. Those permits restrict applicants to holding two meal services per week.