Metropolis discusses crackdown on ‘city tenting’ | Native Information


The Braunschweig City Commission discussed on Wednesday an ordinance that would take action against “urban camping” or sleeping in public parks and squares.

It was the first reading of the ordinance, prosecutor Brian Correy said. The city will hold a second reading and give the public a chance to comment before voting on whether to pass it, he said.

“Earlier this year we were approached by members of the city’s police department and commissioners about a city camping ordinance,” Correy said.

He said the city is looking for ideas in the Georgia cities of Atlanta, Rome, Savannah and Cleveland.

The ordinance not only regulates camping on public land, but also regulates the handling of confiscated property.

The city’s current statute has a section under “crimes and regulations” that reads, “It is unlawful for any person to camp anywhere in the city except in such places as the commission may designate for that purpose.”

The term “camping” is not defined.

The proposed anti-urban camping code is divided into a separate section entitled “Urban Camping and Improper Use of Public Spaces”.

It defines camping as “occupying or using a public park, public area, square or parking lot… for the purpose of habitation such as sleeping or preparing for sleeping… or for storing personal property or other items, lighting, conducting cooking activities, or use.” a tent or other structure for living.

“These activities constitute camping if, in the light of all the circumstances, it reasonably appears that the person engaged in one or more of those activities is actually using the area as a shelter, regardless of the person’s intention or the nature of any other activities in which the person may also be involved.”

The proposed code revision will require a verbal warning before an arrest on camping charges and will prevent private landowners from camping on their property unless the land is properly zoned.

The verbal warning comes in the hope that the arrest-jail-release cycles that many in the homeless community go through will not continue, Correy said. The cycle isn’t helpful to anyone, he said.

It also prohibits camping in private areas that would block access to buildings, driveways, streets, sidewalks, alleys, or other areas with limited entrances.

Exceptions are activities approved by the city government and medical emergencies.

The Brunswick Police Department or City Code Enforcement Officers may confiscate any camping equipment without notice.

“This isn’t a solution to homelessness, but this is a deterrent to what’s going on with the deterioration of property, the acts that have been committed and some of the things that need to be cleaned up,” Mayor Pro Tem Felicia Harris said. “Although we are a caring commission, we are still fiscally responsible for the care and protection of city assets and civic assets.”

It’s obvious that people come to the city because of the centralization of services in the city, but she made it clear that she doesn’t think moving services like The Well, a day shelter for the homeless, would solve any problems.

According to local attorneys and community workers, several factors play a role in homelessness in addition to a lack of income. Some have a single event, like an eviction or job loss, that put them on the street, while others have deeper mental health and substance abuse issues. Often one or more are in play at the same time.

“It’s a countywide issue,” Harris said. “It’s more noticeable in the city because the services are in the city.”

Commissioner Julie Martin questioned the application of the ordinance when individuals arrested under the ordinance would be released from prison at their own discretion simply for not being able to pay bail.

“It won’t be perfect, but it could work better,” said Martin.

Commissioner Johnny Cason said the city also has a begging problem to deal with, but laws in higher jurisdictions prevent the city from effectively putting an end to it.

The commission also voted to approve a new mural on the side of a building at 503 Mansfield Street.

It is part of three murals planned in the city of Living Walls.

Shiela Bride said she was hired by Living Walls and New Georgia Project, an Atlanta-based nonprofit that works to register “historically marginalized voters” in the state to vote and engage in civic engagement, according to the organization’s website.

It would commemorate Georgia Gibbs and Julius C. Hope, who founded the Brunswick NAACP, she said.

“We don’t really know our history. To move forward, we need to know our past,” Bride said.

She also showed an example of another running legs mural planned for Ahmaud Arbery Park.

Anita Collins from Braunschweig asked if the New Georgia Project considered local artists. It was said that an artist from Braunschweig was commissioned for the project.

At another store, city commissioners decided on liquor licenses for two new stores. A code enforcement officer said they found no record of anything that would disqualify either company.

The first was Schroeder’s Market, a small grocery store soon to open in downtown Braunschweig.

“We have a grocery store planned for 203 (Gloucester St.) and we plan to offer a selection of beers and wines,” said Nikki Schroeder, the store owner.

Schroeder said the business plans to open by mid-October and offer a variety of services including a butcher, baker, takeaway lunches, produce, specialty cheeses and meats, and basic groceries.

The commission deferred Lotto Mart 341 LLC’s second application because the applicants failed to meet with the Midtown Neighborhood Planning Assembly. The store would be located in a building at 2432 Newcastle St that used to house a grocery store but has been closed for around six months.

Deep Patel submitted the application, but his cousin spoke for him because he wasn’t comfortable speaking English. He said the store would sell groceries, lottery tickets and fishing supplies due to its proximity to the Brunswick Landing Marina.

He also said Patel contacted the Midtown NPA but did not meet with the congregation due to a misunderstanding of exactly what was expected.

A member of the nearby neighborhood planning meeting said the entire neighborhood had not been notified and asked for more time to do so. He personally felt that the city was selling enough alcohol, but did not want to disrupt the city’s economic development.

The commissioners voted to defer the application until they had an opportunity to meet with the NPA.

The commission also recognized the late Annie Polite, a longtime resident of Braunschweig, who passed away on Wednesday at the age of 93.

“She’s been active in the community for as long as I can walk in this community,” Harris recalled.

She was a regular at commission meetings, a “fireball” that fixed the commission whenever it felt the need, she continued.

“She showed us what it means to care for your community,” Harris said.

• Voted to make a contribution in kind to a project run by the non-profit organization Forward Brunswick to plant 99 trees in the city to commemorate the 99 liberty ships built in Brunswick during World War II. Forward Brunswick board member Michelle Shields said the project means a lot to her personally because her grandfather traveled to the city to work in the shipyards. The project also includes educational signage that will detail for future generations the contributions of the men, women and children of all races who have contributed to the effort, she said.

• Approved a $34,530 sidewalk trip hazard elimination project on Altama Avenue from R Street to the Ga. 25 lane, on Parkwood Drive from Altama Avenue to US 17, on US 341 from G Street to to 7th Street and on Reynolds Street from I Street to 1st Street.

• Voted to purchase flood-prone property as part of a Federal Emergency Management Agency program.

• Heard financial reports for the month of July.

The commissioners entered a closed session at the end of the meeting to discuss property and legal disputes, but took no action.