Proposed city 'sit-lie' law would put stop to sidewalk layabouts in downtown, Old Colorado City
Such behavior is “intimidating” visitors to those commercial centers, and as a result “a lot less people” are coming to them to do their shopping, said Councilmember Tom Strand in a presentation at a work session of the elected body Aug. 24. “This whole ordinance is about the safety of the community as a whole and the economic vitality of the downtown and Old Colorado City."
In a separate interview, Julie Fabrizio, president of the Old Colorado City Associates (OCCA) business group, said she was “very grateful that the city is going to include us in the ordinance, so police will have a [legal] tool to use.” She said she's seen such problems in Old Town, with “people getting a little more aggressive and approaching them [shoppers].” While expressing sympathy for people who are truly down and out, she hopes that having the law available to enforce will help “alleviate fear” in shoppers.
Council members are not planning to vote on what's being called the “Sit-Lie Ordinance” until their regular meeting Tuesday, Sept. 22.
Before then, two public meetings have been scheduled. One is Thursday, Sept. 3 from 6 to 8 p.m. at City Auditorium, 231 E. Kiowa St.; and the other is Thursday, Sept. 17
According to information provided at the work session, city legal staff is confident that the law, if passed, will hold up in court. Strand's presentation listed 10 cities (including Denver and Aurora) where similar measures have been passed and allowed to stand.
A key point, according to city legal opinion, is the ordinance not being worded too broadly. The proposed local version geographically defines the downtown and Old Colorado City, and it prescribes specific hours when it would apply (7 a.m.-10 p.m., extended to 3 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays).
The Old Colorado City zone is defined as Colorado Avenue between 21st and 31st streets and Pikes Peak Avenue to Cucharras Street between 23rd and 28th streets.
The proposed law additionally delineates the kinds of places where people can sit or otherwise relax and where they cannot (see the "Do/Don't" graphic above). Exceptions to the law include medical emergencies or disability issues.
Because the Sit-Lie Ordinance would fall under the category of public safety, the potential penalties for violation are more severe than, for example, camping in public, which is
City Councilmember Don Knight questioned if that wasn't a bit harsh.
However, Police Chief Pete Carey responded that he hopes not to issue citations at all and that just having the law as a “tool” will enable officers to dissuade violators.
Strand noted in another part of the meeting that safety is an issue because people sitting or lying in places like sidewalks, curbs or street planters have been known to block the right of way, which can make shoppers feel "intimidated or uncomfortable" and even detour into the street.
The work session discussion revealed that current loitering ordinances, chiefly written in the 1960s, did not foresee the current type of behavior. Loitering then was seen as a possible prelude to a criminal act such as burglary or assault.
According to a slide presented at the work session, the basis of the ordinance was worked out with the help of meetings with representatives of local groups over the past couple of months, including (from the Westside) OCCA, the Organization of Westside Neighbors, the Old Colorado City Library and Old Colorado City Foundation.
Only one council member, Jill Gaebler, voiced displeasure about the ordinance concept. Although she said she understands merchants' issues, she feels it would just move the problem elsewhere. She also called for a process so that any new regulations would be a good fit with a planned “day center” for homeless people south of downtown.
Aimee Cox, director of the city's Housing Division (which is involved with homeless issues), said the goal of the law is “not to target any particular people, but behaviors.”
City Councilmember Bill Murray opined that “it should be clear that this particular problem is growing” and he believes that the proposed law “is as good as it gets” in terms of dealing with it.
Westside Pioneer article