Commissioners ponder halt to temporary dwelling permits

Sean C. Morgan

The Sweet Home Planning Commission is considering whether to stop approving permits for temporary dwelling units in cases of medical hardship.

The permits are typically granted to allow a caretaker to remain on a property to help care for someone who has a medical hardship in low-density residential zones.

They aren’t common, said Planning Manager Laura Goodrich – perhaps two or three per year.

While the commission hasn’t denied any temporary dwelling requests, in the past year, a couple of planning commissioners have had some difficulties voting for them based on concerns over the definition of temporary dwellings and criteria for the permits.

The commission met in a work session earlier this month to consider the difficulties.

The discussion broke the overall issue into two parts, the criteria and the definition of temporary dwellings, Goodrich said.

The temporary dwelling permit is technically a conditional use permit, but criteria are not listed for it, she said. The second question is whether temporary dwellings include recreational vehicles.

Discussion was initially divided, she said. Ultimately, most of the commissioners supported removing the permit from the code entirely.

Commissioner Ned Kilpatrick did not agree and preferred to keep the permit in the ordinance, Good-rich said.

Other commissioners were concerned about making land use decisions based on medical information, she said. They worried that discussing medical information publicly is uncomfortable for the commissioners and for the patients. They also wondered whether there was really a place for medical information in land use.

With the dwellings, the commissioners wondered whether the temporary dwellings ever come off a property after the temporary use, Goodrich said, and how they might interact with the new recreational vehicle ordinance approved by the City Council last month.

With that new ordinance, it may serve well enough for temporary use for medical hardships, she said. The new ordinance allows property owners to host a recreational vehicle up to 60 days with a permit.

That may grant time for a patient to recover or make other arrangements, she said.

The Planning Commission will consider striking the provision from the city ordinance, she said. Following public notice, the commission will hold a public hearing in January.

Even if it were removed from the city ordinance, Goodrich said, the list of possible conditional uses in the ordinance is not exhaustive; and a property owner could still apply for a conditional use permit to allow the use of a temporary dwelling for a medical hardship.

“If someone had a serious medical issue, and they wanted to go before the Planning Commission and ask, they have that right,” she said.

The Planning Commission last approved a medical hardship permit on Sept. 8. That permit is good for two years.

For further information, call the planning office at (541) 367-8113.