Local government

Ontario City Council to ponder new camping ordinance to address homeless issues

ONTARIO – A bare city lot in southeast Ontario would be set aside for those who are homeless under a proposal being considered by the Ontario City Council.

After months of research and discussion, the city council was expected to deliberate on Tuesday, June 13, on a new ordinance to align with a 2021 state law that regulates time, place and manner for people camping in public.

The new mandate bans camping on city property and rights of way – including parks – between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m.

The ordinance designates property on Southeast 13th Avenue as one place where the unhoused could congregate during the day. The parcel is 2.8 acres. The area could accommodate more than 100 people.

“It is a place for people to stay until they can figure out where to go and get what services they need,” said Dan Cummings, Ontario city manager.

The Tuesday council session was also to include a public hearing regarding the ordinance.

If approved by the council, the new conditions would take effect July 13.

Cummings, said the camping ban does not restrict access to city facilities, such as parks.

Use of parks, he said, is allowed but people “just can’t camp in them.”

“People can sit there or take a nap but they cannot have camping stuff with them,” he said.

The city ordinance puts Ontario in line with 2021 legislation – House Bill 3115 – that required city or county laws regulating “acts of sitting, lying, sleeping or keeping warm and dry outside on public property must be ‘objectively reasonable’ based on the totality of the circumstances as applied to all stakeholders, including persons experiencing homelessness.”

The state law takes effect July 1, a deadline that compelled city leaders to scramble to create a new ordinance. The Oregon law is based on two federal court decisions regarding local laws and available local shelter services and the use of public space.

The new ordinance also outlines new regulations regarding vehicles used as a living space on city streets. A vehicle cannot be used “for habitation and/or sleeping” on a city street for more than 24 hours in a 30-day period.

Open flames, the burning of garbage or fires used for heating are also prohibited as is the dumping of wastewater into any city outlets, such as a storm drain. The ordinance also limits the amount of time an individual can occupy any city pavilion or gazebo within a park to no more than two hours a day without a city permit.

An individual who violates the camping and vehicle mandates could be subject to a $35 fine.

Continued violations could carry a penalty of $250.

If the council delivers a unanimous vote of approval for the ordinance then it can move ahead to the second, and final, reading of the regulation. The new ordinance will go into effect July 13.

News tip? Contact reporter Pat Caldwell at [email protected]

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