Failed Aurora camping ban measure will be reconsidered in 2 weeks

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AURORA, Colo. (KDVR) — A proposed camping ban in Aurora is dead for now.

Mayor Mike Coffman’s camping ban failed before the Aurora City Council on Monday night in a 5-5 tie, with Coffman casting the fifth vote in favor of the measure.

City rules dictate that a tie means the measure has failed. But the council will take it up again in two weeks.

Law would require 3-day notice of removal

As proposed, the ban would allow the city to force people camping on public property to stop and leave the area, as long as they’re given a three-day notice. The city would also be required to make sure there are places for those people to stay.

“It could simply mean a safe camping space for them to move to with their existing tents. You could go beyond that but that’s the minimum requirement,” Coffman said, adding that the plan could include homeless shelters, motel vouchers and permanent housing options.

“It’s a challenge to get these people in. But I think if they have options to where it’s between going to a shelter and a safe camping space, they’ll probably choose a safe camping space,” Coffman said.

There was a temporary safe camping space for vehicles set up in the spring, but as of right now, the city does not have that anymore — nor a space for tents.

Support for safe campsites

Coffman said he supports safe campsites. So does council member Alison Coombs, who voted against the ban.

“If we need to have safe camping and shelter and all of these alternatives anyway, let’s do these things and operate from that place and determine what kind of policy may be necessary at that time,” Coombs said.

Coombs has concerns that the ban would amount to get fined or arrested, although the mayor said that won’t happen unless they refuse to leave.

Coffman said the ordinance as proposed to council on Monday “does not criminalize homelessness,” adding that “there will be no fines or criminal penalties imposed for being in an encampment unless someone refuses to leave once ordered to do so.”

Coombs pushed back on that.

“If we have a law that we’re not going to cite anyone for and we’re not going to provide any enforcement then it’s not clear to me why we have a law,” Coombs said.

At present, the city can only clear out homeless camps if they’re deemed a threat to public health or safety, making the camp in violation of city code.

Coffman and Aurora’s assistant city attorney proposed the camping ban back in May. The proposal had already gone before council committees, where it also failed to advance, including at a study session on Aug. 2.

The proposal also requires a 72-hour notice before campers can be removed.

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