City Council to discuss enforcement of laws governing illegal camping, fires
As requested by District 1 City Councilmember Don Knight, council plans to seek clarification at the body's next work session Monday, Feb. 26. about “what we can and can't do” in enforcing Colorado Springs laws governing illegal camping.
He brought the subject up briefly at the Feb. 12 work session. Interviewed afterward, Knight said that in a year when impromptu camps - and so-called “warming fires” - have become a common sight along waterways and trails and in parks and various out-of-the-way locations, concerns about safety and community impacts are shared by “several of us on council.”
He continued, “We want to know what our options are.”
Knight, whose district covers areas of the Westside roughly north of Uintah Street, elaborated that for the Feb. 26 meeting, he would like to have high-level staff on hand from the City Attorney's Office and the Police and Fire departments. Specifically, he said, he is seeking answers about the following:
- How much warning must be given to people camping and/or trespassing on private property?
For example, a woman at the Jan. 11 Westside Community Center public meeting on homeless activities said she'd found a transient who'd snuck into
- To what extent are law officers' hands tied by recent court interpretations of Amendment 8 of the U.S. Constitution, which indicate that local governments can't violate individuals' “right to survival”?
The Jan. 11 meeting left the impression that because of Amendment 8, if the shelters have no space, police may not be able to enforce the city's ordinance prohibiting camping on public land.
“Where I'm coming from is, what are our options if someone is violating the city's no-camping ordinance, and how is it different when shelter beds are available and when they aren't?” Knight asked.
- Can the warning time for people camping illegally on public property be reduced?
In the seven-plus years since council passed the no-camping law, police have made it clear that they will wait at least 48 hours before issuing citations, once a warning has been given. "The mayor wants to bring it down to 24 hours," Knight said.
As for himself, he pondered, “If we have a public no-camping law, why can't they be gone in an hour?” At the same time, he said he doubts that police have the manpower to go back and check that often.
- In the interests of health and sanitation, can the city limit how far a camp can be established from a creek?
This is another question that's been expressed by Mayor John Suthers, according to Knight.
- Regarding “warming fires,” which the Fire Department has said are allowable if they meet international standards for “recreational fires,” Knight said that council members want more clarification on how that's being enforced.
He thanked Dave Leinweber, owner of Angler's Covey, for helping raise such questions after fires from two camps threatened his business at 21st and Highway 24 in early January.
Council work sessions are open to the public, but citizen comments are not taken, unless councilmembers agree to do so. The location is City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave., with the meeting starting at 1 p.m.
Westside Pioneer article