CENTENNIAL, Colo. (CBS4) – The City of Centennial is the next Denver metro area community to implement a homeless camping ban. Monday night city council unanimously approved the proposed ordinance, aimed at giving the city more control over camping.
The move came after the city says it was confronted with small camps popping up on city-owned property.
The sheriff’s office says it hasn’t had problems with large camps to date and most of the time, people camping move along when asked.
The problem is what could inevitably happen. The small camps have been known to occupy public rights of way. Places like, sidewalks, trails, parks, open space and even designated flood plains.
Previously, law enforcement could only ask campers to move along. This newly-approved ordinance would provide a fallback option for officers. A way to enforce moving along.
There were 12 people signed up to give comment on the ban Monday night.
While some spoke in favor of the proactive ordinance, other community members expressed concern it was addressing a problem that didn’t exist.
“I’m not sure that it’s effective to be preemptive in a situation where there’s not an issue. If we had a tent city set up, I’d be a little more concerned,” said Susan Parachini.
CBS4 caught Susan and her family taking a walk along the High Line Canal. The trail access isn’t far from their front door.
“(I) Walk the trail pretty much everyday or at least several times a week and I feel comfortable walking it myself,” said Susan.
The Parachini family has lived in Centennial for 25 years and while it has changed, they haven’t noticed any problems with transients or urban camping.
“We see trash sometimes. I mean, we saw some clothes that were just left behind once, but there’s never been any people attached to it so part of it’s just normal wear and tear on the area, but I wouldn’t say that it’s necessarily transient-caused and I don’t think we have an issue,” said Mea, Susan’s daughter.
Even if they did start to notice the occasional tent, they’re still not sure if forcing them to move along is the right solution.
“I mean, I wouldn’t want to kick them out just because they needed a place to stay,” said Dick, Susan’s husband.
Those who commented at the public hearing were divided in their positions.
One man suggested that council members table the decision until a better solution could be reached. He argued that those who would be subject to the ordinance cannot afford the penalty and tax payer dollars would be wasted forcing them to pay the associated fine. He also worried about the potential for lawsuits against the city.
Others came forward urging the city to pass the ban. One woman claimed police have had to remove needles from nearby green space. Another claimed a camp just outside her apartment complex was growing. She worried it would become out of control without enforcement.