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Saturday, September 9, 2006 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Tent City 4 hit with $4,000 bill

Seattle Times Eastside bureau

The Eastside's roving homeless encampment has appealed the majority of conditions attached to a Bothell city permit and also is concerned about a more than $4,000 bill received from the city.

The invoice charges both First Evangelical Lutheran Church in Bothell and SHARE/WHEEL, Tent City 4's sponsor, for the hours Bothell city staffers spent processing the application.

The accommodations permit was issued in August, when Tent City 4 had planned to move to the First Evangelical Lutheran Church. But the homeless encampment decided to go to a backup site in unincorporated King County near Woodinville the evening before its move date because of the more than 20 conditions attached to the permit.

The conditions included various parking, security, public-health and landscaping regulations.

The bill, due Tuesday, is abnormally high, said Pete Schnebele, a co-leader of the church's homeless mission team. The bill needs to be paid for the appeal to stay active, according to the city.

Schnebele said that from talking to other churches that have hosted tent cities in Kirkland, Bellevue and unincorporated King County, the highest fee was $500.

Tent City 4 plans to send a letter to the city asking it to waive the fee.

But each city is different in how it handles fees for permits, said Bill Wiselogle, Bothell's community-development director. In Bothell, an applicant pays for staff time spent processing the application, and Tent City 4 is not being treated differently from any other land-use applicant, he said.

Bothell actually gave Tent City 4 and the church a discount, charging them for only 46 hours of work rather than the more than 68 hours actually spent, Wiselogle said.

Although the church has not submitted an appeal, Tent City 4 is appealing the permit conditions. Organizers said they believe that what happened in Bothell could have a domino effect on the way they're treated in other cities.

"The permit that was issued was so restrictive that we couldn't move there," said Bruce Thomas, Tent City 4's resident camp adviser. "They intended to keep us out of Bothell."

The Church Council of Greater Seattle also filed an appeal on behalf of other churches that might want to host the encampment in the future, said the Rev. Dr. Sanford Brown, executive director of the council. He said Bothell's decision was overreaching in regulating religious practice.

But Wiselogle said a tremendous amount of time went into processing the application to comply with the city's regulations.

"The conditions imposed were absolutely consistent with what our regulations say," he said. "The fact that we actually issued the permit demonstrates that we're certainly willing to have a homeless encampment in Bothell."

And the faith community was involved in drafting the transitory-accommodations ordinance adopted by the City Council last December — and the permit abides by those regulations, Wiselogle said.

Officials of other cities, such as Bellevue and Kirkland, say what happened in Bothell doesn't have an effect on them — they have their own ordinances in place that regulate homeless encampments.

Woodinville has been trying to adopt policies to regulate homeless encampments since 2005. It's now recruiting members for its emergency-preparedness commission, which will review amendments to its temporary-use permit.

"I'm sure that they will be presented with what other cities do," said Marie Stake, spokeswoman for the city of Woodinville.

Bothell has until Nov. 23 to resolve the appeal. A hearing is tentatively scheduled for Nov. 6, but the city could choose to settle or move for dismissal of the appeal.

Tent City 4 has been invited to stay at St. John Vianney Parish in unincorporated King County near Kirkland as its next location.

Anne Kim: 206-464-2591 or akim@seattletimes.com

Copyright © 2006 The Seattle Times Company

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