By Martin Barrett
On November 15, The Burien Assistant City Attorney, Ndiabou Diagana, sent a demand letter to Pastor Mark Miller of Oasis Home Church, notifying him of his obligation to apply for a Temporary Use Permit for Encampment Operations. In the letter, it is clear that Miller and Cydney Moore’s organization, Burien Community Support Coalition (BCSC), have repeatedly failed to respond to city requirements.
This is normal behavior for Moore, who passed out her city business card when encouraging street campers to move to a city plot of land without city approval. This behavior is exactly what the voters rejected in the November 7 election. As of November 14, with 10,854, 36.84% of the ballots counted, Moore is losing by 16 points. Moore has had four years on the Burien City Council to display her vision and methods. Burien residents have seen, spoken and rejected her policies and the dysfunctional strife she brings. It appears that Miller and his congregation have adopted that same recalcitrant arrogance.
The following is the message Burien City Manager Adolfo Bailon sent to the council:
Subject: FW: IMPORTANT : Demand Letter To Submit a Temporary Encampment Use Permit
I write to share with you a letter that was sent today to Pastor Mark Miller, Oasis Home Church.
The letter demands action from Oasis Home Church in the form of applying for a Temporary Use Permit. The City has issued a deadline for compliance of November 20, 2023. The letter has been shared with Pastor Miller through email and a physical letter sent to Oasis Home Church via Certified Mail.
November 15, 2023
Oasis Home Church c/o Pastor Mark Miller 520 S 150th St, Burien, WA 98148
Subject: Demand Letter – Apply for a Temporary Use Permit for Encampment Operations
Dear Pastor Miller,
RCW 35A.21.360(2)(A), which authorizes religious organizations to host individuals experiencing homelessness, also recognizes local governments’ police powers to protect the public’s health and safety under Washington Constitution Article 11, Section 11.
While the City of Burien understands, supports, and welcomes the religious intent behind providing shelter to the unhoused, the Burien Municipal Code requires a temporary use permit before this can be done at your facility. BMC 19.75.010(1) notes that a temporary use permit is required for unpermitted zoning uses. Unpermitted encampments pose a potential risk to public health, safety for the unhoused population you are trying to serve, and the environment of the surrounding communities.
To date, the Oasis Home Church has not applied for a temporary use permit for its proposed or existing encampment, even after Burien offered to waive the permit application fee. Oasis Home Church has asserted that applying for a temporary use permit would burden its right to free exercise of religion. Please revisit RCW 35A.21.360(2)(A), which prohibits substantial burdens but not all burdens on religious decisions or actions. Moreover, RCW 35A.21.360 repeatedly references a municipality’s responsibility or ability to require permits. See RCW 35A.21.360(2)(c) and RCW 35A.21.360(8).
The church’s failure to submit a temporary use permit application, even with the fee waived, may leave the City of Burien with no choice but to seek imminent legal action. Please rectify this situation, and consider reading Open Door Baptist Church v. Clark Cty., 140 Wn.2d 143, 995 P.2d 33 (2000) for guidance. Please consult with a licensed attorney to ensure you are acting consistent with the law.
Thank you for your attention to this demand letter, and please submit a temporary use permit application and request a waiver by November 20, 2023, at 3:00 p.m.
Ndiabou Diagana Assistant City Attorney