Loveland City Council plans to ban outdoor camping – Loveland Reporter-Herald

After a marathon session that stretched into the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Loveland City Council took the first steps to changing its approach to managing homeless encampments.

Although there was no official action, the council ordered City Manager Steve Adams to write an ordinance that would allow the city to remove the camps from public property “as soon as possible.”

“I would like to see us ban urban camping in the town of Loveland, and if we have to build a campground, let’s do it,” Councilor John Fogle said. “…What we did was in everyone’s best interests, including protecting ourselves legally…But this has to stop. It has to stop now. Please let’s do it quickly.

The council’s decision to proceed with a camping ban came after a lengthy public and private discussion that began on a tense note. Following a delay of discuss recall election costscouncil members voted to start the homeless discussion in executive session first, prompting a viewer to berate them for wasting the public’s time.

“We sat here for hours to have our words heard,” said Terry Wilkinson. “We are frustrated. It’s been almost three hours.

Further comments from Wilkinson were met with an expletive from Councilman Steve Olson, who later apologized. But the board also agreed to meet again for public comment, before the executive session.

The comment period finally began well after 9 p.m. and was uniformly in favor of urgent action by the city to curb a problem that a Kings Crossing business says is “spinning out of control.”

“We’ve had trucks stolen, we’ve had equipment destroyed, we’ve lost thousands of dollars of our equipment, our money, which is supposed to go back to our employees to help build the community, to help give back to people within the community,” said Amon McCrary of McCrary and Sons Landscaping.

Other area residents and business owners said they had witnessed violence or indecency and were hesitant to bring their children to the area. Others claimed there had been a noticeable increase in burglaries and disturbances at commercial properties along Lincoln Avenue, including Safeway.

The council then retired in executive session for more than an hour, to discuss the possible legal risks associated with stricter enforcement of unauthorized camping. When the meeting resumed, council heard a presentation from Adams, detailing the extent of Loveland’s homeless population.

According to the city manager, the number of homeless residents in Loveland has increased in recent years, as it has across the state, but in 2020 the number has started to increase more noticeably. As of April 22, there were 41 “active encampments” in Loveland, including seven with “Priority 1” health and safety concerns. There are also 31 abandoned camps that have been removed.

“We have reports that people are coming to our town because there are other communities around us that have camping bans, and we don’t, so they’re finding their way here,” Adams said in response. to a question about the increase. More lax drug possession laws at the state level are also a factor, he continued.

Following the presentation, several councilors called for immediate action, including a ban on camping, but also stricter enforcement of existing laws, where possible.

“You may have four ounces of poison, but I guarantee the supplier has a lot more on board,” Councilwoman Dana Foley said to cheers from the crowd. “We really have to chase them like spawn on rice. Make it difficult, make it absolutely painful. That way these drug dealers won’t want to come to the town of Loveland, because we’re going to get them. Unleash our police forces.

In response, Alison Hade of the city’s Community Partnerships office argued that solving the problem involves more than stronger enforcement and urged the city to continue or increase its efforts to reach out to the homeless community. , especially from non-police sources. She also spoke in favor of SummitStone’s co-responder program.

Officer Garrett Osilka, who has been actively involved in the Loveland Police Department’s community outreach efforts with the homeless community and was on hand to answer council’s questions, told members the department had had some success with these efforts, but needed “more tools”. to be really effective.

“There are people who have their arms open, who wanted this help,” he said. “However, there is a population that wants nothing to do with it, because of mental illness or otherwise. … For this population, which is our toughest population, we need the ability to enforce the laws that are already in place.

According to Adams, drafting the proposed order will take a week, but coordinating logistics could take longer. One of the biggest hurdles is finding a temporary alternative for displaced campers, as leaving them homeless could be a violation of civil rights.

“It won’t be ready for next Tuesday, so I’m going to ask for some time on that,” he said, adding that an order should be ready for council action at its next regular meeting. in May. 17.

If approved, the ordinance would go to a second reading, unless it is designated as an “emergency” ordinance, in which case it would take effect immediately.

“We want to make sure we’re applying and approaching this thing correctly,” Adams said. “And also don’t put our police in a situation that would be untenable.”

If it is signed into law on May 17 or May 24, it is unclear when the removal of encampments would begin, as multiple agencies would be involved and campers would need to be notified in advance. At this time, the city has not identified a potential alternative, although several suggestions were offered during the discussion, including temporary camp-style housing, tiny houses, or converting existing buildings into temporary shelters. .

Sally J. Minick