A bill which would transfer the title of the Warner Creek Correctional Facility (WCCF) if it is closed by Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has passed the Oregon Senate and is now moving through the Oregon House.

Senate Bill 19 — which was introduced by Sen. Lynn Findley — passed out of the Oregon Senate on Thursday, April 22, with 28 votes in favor and two senators who voted as excused; no Oregon Senator voted against the bill.

Since Findley introduced the legislation and the Oregon Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue recently approved a major amendment to SB 19. While the original bill was broader, it did not refer to Lake County directly. The amendment makes it clear that if WCCF is closed by Brown then the State of Oregon will offer the title to the facility and allow the County to change the zoning of the land one time without the need to follow any of the statewide land use goals.

The State would have to offer the title of WCCF within 180 days after all adults in custody have been transferred to a different facility and the Oregon Department Corrections has supplied the County with a written notice of the closure. The County then has 30 days to accept or reject the offer; if there is no response from the County within those 30 days then the Oregon Department Corrections will withdraw its offer.

If the County agrees to take the title, it will have to pay all closing costs, recording fees, escrow fees and title insurance. If the County agrees to take the title to WCCF and they sell, transfer or lease the building, the County will need to provide written notice 30 days prior to any change in the ownership or running of the building.

The County would be allowed to amend its comprehensive land use plan without needing to follow statewide planning goals, but there are a few rules the County would need to follow. Those rules include: passing an ordinance after a public hearing about what the land should be zoned, the ordinance is passed within one year of the title being transferred, and the County has not converted the facility into a regional correctional facility.

Findley said there is support for the bill, though he did not say whether Brown might change her mind about closing WCCF. Brown has used her executive authority to close three prisons in Oregon, with WCCF slated to close July 2022.

SB 19 is now in the Oregon House, and as of press time it had been referred to the House Committee on Economic Recovery and Prosperity. No public meetings have been scheduled.

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