The City of Yankton is officially restricting camping within the city limits while codifying language to grant exceptions.
During its regular meeting Monday night, the Yankton City Commission voted 8-0 to adopt a camping ordinance.
City Manager Amy Leon said that, previously, the city’s ordinances had nothing directly addressing camping.
“The way we’ve treated camping in city limits is, it’s been associated with special events,” she said. “If somebody wanted to … camp, for example, in Riverside Park we have sent that through (the commission) for your approval. We actually don’t have any ordinance indicating that it is allowed or isn’t allowed, so for you to approve it doesn’t really mean a whole lot now. … We have some folks that have camped and we don’t have the ability to tell them that’s not what the certain park or space is for.”
She added that the city has also noticed several people camping in random places on city property.
“We’ve had an issue with camping along Marne Creek and people not understanding that is a flood hazard mitigation area,” she said. “There’s reasons not to camp there.”
City Attorney Ross Den Herder said the issues haven’t been confined to tent camping.
“There have been, over the years, issues where people have pulled up in town in an RV, parked and lived nomadically throughout the town,” he said. “This (ordinance) provides a tool to discourage that as well.”
Leon said the ordinance would allow the city manager or their designee to approve special camping requests in the parks.
“We think that makes the most sense since we do so many things administratively with special events-type things,” she said.
However, the ordinance doesn’t restrict all camping within the city limits.
“It also prohibits camping within the city except for in areas that are designated campgrounds in zoning districts that allow campgrounds,” she said. “We’re not talking about KOA here or if there should be another campground within the city limits established. We’re not talking about that. We’re just talking about people in general camping in the park without permission or on someone’s private property. If kids want to camp out in their yard, that’s not what we’re doing here. That would be allowed … What we want to do is prevent people from camping on people’s property that don’t have permission.”
Commissioner Mike Villanueva expressed some concern with the restrictions in the ordinance.
“I understand where we’re going with this, but the only concern I have is if there is a mom or dad that wants to pitch a tent in the backyard with the family; technically, they are guilty of a misdemeanor if they haven’t called,” he said.
Leon said enforcement is based more on common sense.
“If kids want to camp out in their backyard, great,” she said. “However, if you have a large group of people camping in your backyard or you have someone pull up an RV in your backyard and all of a sudden it becomes a disturbance in your neighborhood, we have a mechanism now for our police department to say, ‘Hey, Villanuevas, you’re getting kind of rowdy and we need to shut it down.’”
Commissioner Jerry Webber was absent during the regular meeting.
In other business Monday, the commission:
• Held a work session prior to the regular meeting regarding proposed changes to Music at the Meridian, upgrading the green space near the Meridian Bridge, special event equipment and securing special events;
• Approved a professional services agreement with Banner Associates for a sanitary sewer crossing of Marne Creek;
• Approved a conditional-use permit for the planned Early Childhood Development Center;
• Adjusted salaries for the city manager, city finance officer and city attorney;
• Heard an update from Colton Griffin on his Eagle Scout project in Yankton’s skate park.
Follow @RobNielsenPandD on Twitter.