The Tooele City Council is working on an ordinance to restrict camping in the city.
Even though the typical warm-weather camping season has come to a close, the Tooele City Council thought it important to talk about illegal camping on both public and private property during their Oct. 6 work meeting.
Roger Baker, city attorney, presented the discussion.
Baker said that people have been camping in tents throughout the city, which has caused a number of problems and public health concerns.
“We feel like we don’t have all of the tools we need to be able to deal with that situation,” Baker said, referencing the individuals camping in tents.
Individuals camping on private property has also become an issue, according to Baker.
“Our biggest concerns have actually been with tent encampments on private properties that we don’t control or regulate,” Baker said. “We’ve had a couple families living in tents with the only sanitation they had was a bucket for a month and this creates a real health and safety concern for the people themselves, the neighbors, the people walking by, and children walking by. We don’t want to discourage families and kids from pitching a tent and camping in their own backyard but we also don’t want people moving in and making it a permanent situation.”
City officials want to ban camping on public property and limit camping on private property.
A public comment about people camping in the city was emailed to the city council.
“We received a comment saying that it’s my property and I should be able to do what I want with it,” Baker said, referencing individuals camping on private property.
Baker said that city officials want to limit private property camping to three days, because of health and safety concerns.
The council didn’t make any official decisions on a camping ordinance during the meeting, but they did discuss what they would like to see in a future ordinance.
“I would break that rule with myself and my family when we do our big reunion every year,” said Ed Hansen, council member, speaking about the potential three-day ordinance. “It’s [his family reunion] longer than three days. I think that might be a little short. I don’t think people should be able to camp on public property unless they have permission from the city.”
Baker said that city officials don’t want to be too strict when creating an ordinance.
“We want to find the right balance,” he said, replying to Hansen’s comment. “Maybe we should make it a little longer [than three days].”
Council member Tony Graf said that he agrees with Hansen.
“I would join councilman Hansen’s comment in thinking about property rights of the individual in trying to balance safety and public health issues,” he said. “Perhaps for me, I would extend that for just a little bit longer.”
Graf also said that if the city makes this an ordinance, they should provide those living in tents with resources, so they have a place to go when they get kicked out.
Councilwoman Melodi Gochis said that a potential ordinance should include campers and trailers.
Baker said that the city already has an ordinance in place that disallows living in an RV anywhere but an RV park, but the city should address the trailer and camper issue further to potentially add to the ordinance.
Baker said that the RV ordinance hasn’t been enforced.
“For some people during COVID, that was their only dwelling option,” he said, speaking about the RVs.
Tooele City officials will construct an ordinance soon regarding illegal camping, with a possible exception for a public emergency and festivals, and allowing individuals to camp for five days on private property.