Questions remain as Metro Council continues discussing camping ordinance | News


LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — Blocked bus stops, tents in public parks, and barbecues on sidewalks are scenes across Louisville that local leaders are trying to fix.

Some members of Metro Council met Monday for a special discussion about the proposed camping ordinance.

The issue has come up in mayoral candidate forums and prior Metro Council meetings, but a solution is hard to find.

“If you can’t use a sidewalk, if you can’t use a gazebo, if you can’t use a park restroom, we have to fix that,” said Councilman James Peden (R-23).

That’s why Councilwoman Nicole George and sponsors say they drafted this most recent ordinance.

“The intention of what we have currently drafted is not specific to the houseless community,” George (D-21) said.


Homeless camp in Louisville, Ky.

She says the objective is to expand the window city agencies have to break up a camp before it’s established, restrict camping in public parks, and make sure people have access to rights-of-way, including sidewalks.

She says that’s a problem that profoundly impacts people in her district.

“So that means the neighbor that can’t access the bus stop, the neighbor that can’t let their children play in the backyard. The person who can’t walk their dog,” George said.

The issues of potential fines and the removal of personal storage drew attention and opposition from Bill Hollander (D-9) and advocates for the homeless.

Hollander believes the ordinance leaves the city vulnerable to a lawsuit, and is unnecessary, especially after LMPD Lt. Caleb Stewart told Council they met with the county attorney about an old state law concerning the obstruction of a highway or public passage.

“And they have advised us that it does include sidewalks,” Lt. Stewart said.

Hollander says the enforcement of the state law will alleviate many of the issues brought up during these discussions. But on the issue of enforcement, Lt. Stewart says there’s a lot of confusion within the department.

“As written, it’s not extremely clear where we have legal authority and where we don’t,” Lt. Stewart said.

At the meeting, officials from at least four city agencies were called to discuss their role and concerns.

Councilman James Peden questioned if all these different teams are needed to clean up a camping site, how can you coordinate a cleanup efficiently, while also keeping the houseless in mind.

“And until the ordinance fixes that, or jurisdictionally we give one agency the authority to do it all, I don’t think we’re getting anywhere,” Peden said.


Homeless camp in Louisville, Ky.

A few dozen protesters holding signs that read “Homes Not Fines” were also at Monday’s meeting. The question of how those without homes can pay fines if cited was brought up repeatedly during the discussion.

Lt. Stewart said to his knowledge, they had not issued any fines for homeless-related enforcement in at least the past year. George says, in relation to the camping ordinance, they’re still working on a fee structure.

The ordinance is scheduled to be discussed again in the next Parks Committee meeting.

More on the camping ordinance:

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