An ordinance, seen as the equivalent to the “Sit-Lie Ban,” was voted in favor of by Fort Collins City Council Tuesday night.
The ordinance would amend city code regulating trespass and obstruction of a highway or passageway. Council voted 3-2 in favor of its first reading.
The amendments include an obstruction ordinance, which would add prohibition of blocking passages to public fixtures such as pedestrian buttons, water fountains and benches, and a trespass ordinance, which would make it illegal to lie or occupy objects on objects not designed for those purposes, such as flowerbeds or planters.
The detail of the obstruction ordinance, which received the most attention during Tuesday evening’s meeting, was the proposed prohibition of sitting, kneeling or lying within twenty feet of any business entrance during opening hours.
Ten citizens commented on the proposed amendment before the attending members of the City Council deliberated. All of the citizens who spoke were against the amendment.
Gwen Thompson, of the Fort Collins Homeless Coalition, was the first to speak, and was quick to note that the amendment amounted to a back door route to the Sit-Lie Ban. In addition, Thompson said she was troubled by the twenty foot buffer zone, which covered most of the downtown area.
Deborah James, homeless herself, echoed some of Thompson’s sentiments, and said the city wants the homeless population to leave the city, but the population does not have the money or the resources to relocate.
“Where are we supposed to go? We have nowhere to go,” James said.
After the citizen comments, the City Council deliberated. Councilmember Kristin Stephens asked how the number of 20 feet was decided upon. It was then brought up that the 20 foot ordinance has been in effect for quite some time. 20 feet is needed to provide maneuverability for groups and people with disabilities.
Councilmember Bob Overbeck made a motion to decrease the ordinance from 20 to 15 feet, which was seconded. Overbeck also asked for a shaded map of the all the areas affected throughout downtown by the 20 foot ban, which is proposed to be followed up on.
Fort Collins Deputy Chief Kevin Cronin did not feel comfortable with the proposed decrease. Cronin said only a 15 foot buffer would cause safety concerns for the police. Safety concerns included accessibility to businesses and loitering in front of businesses serving alcohol.
Stephens rejected the idea that the proposed amendment was “profiling” and called for compromise. She said the need to sit and lie down needed to be balanced with maneuverability.
Other members of council fell on the other side of the issue.
Councilmember Ross Cunniff, who is in favor of the amendment, said he is in support of mental health concerns and is an advocate for continued partnerships with homeless coalitions. However, Cuniff voted in favor of the ordinance.
“If we wait until everything is perfect to vote yes on anything, we won’t get anywhere,” Cuniff said.
Councilmembers Ray Martinez and Gerry Horak, along with Cuniff, voted in favor of the amendment. Stephens and Overbeck voted against it.
The second reading for this amendment is not yet scheduled.
Collegian news reporter Colin Raunig can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @colinraunig.