Fairhope to vote on ban on sleeping in cars

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FAIRHOPE – City officials will vote Monday on a proposal to ban people sleeping in cars and outside Fairhope buildings, but removed a restriction on outdoor backyard campouts.

The Fairhope City Council held a first reading on the ordinance on July 22. The proposal is scheduled for a final vote at the next council meeting. If approved, it would prohibit anyone from sleeping in vehicles from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., The ordinance would also prohibit sleeping in tents or sleeping bags outside city buildings or on municipal benches.

The original proposal would also restrict camping in yards for more than two consecutive days. When the motion was proposed on July 22 meeting, Councilman Jay Robinson asked that the campout restriction be removed.

“I’ve gotten some feedback that it gives a little heartburn to some of the citizens and I don’t disagree with it and I think it still accomplishes what we’re trying to do without any overstrict residential requirements,” Robinson said.

He said the restrictions in the rest of the proposal ware needed.

“I think in general, the ordinance is good and I think it’s going to be helpful in our community,” he said.

Police Chief Stephanie Hollinghead said taking out the campout restriction would not hurt police efforts to keep people from camping on public “I don’t have any issues with that all, in fact I talked to several people who had the same concerns,” she said.

Hollinghead said the ordinance is based on regulations passed in another city, which included the campout restriction.

In earlier meetings, the chief said restricting outdoor sleeping is needed to deal with an increasing problem in Fairhope.

At the July 22 meeting, Fairhope officials said the city is receiving complaints about campers sleeping on private property near municipal parks. They said that if campers are on private property without permission, they can be prosecuted for trespassing under existing city laws.

The ordinance would also allow camping in other circumstances approved by the council, such as in specific areas at Mardi Gras or the Fairhope Arts and Crafts Festival.

The ordinance would allow campers in permitted mobile home parks and campgrounds. People visiting family members would also be allowed to stay in campers on the residents’ property for up to 14 days.

Anyone violating the regulations could receive a municipal ordinance ticket and have to appear in city court. Repeated violations could result in a jail sentence.