Instead of ban, Council committee recommends permit process for Occupy Asheville campers

A proposed ban on camping on city property — drafted in response to Occupy Asheville‘s encampment in front of City Hall — didn’t make it past Asheville City Council’s Public Safety Committee. Instead the committee directed staff at its meeting this afternoon to look at a permitting process for campers.

The new proposals, put forward by Council member Gordon Smith, would establish a permitting process for individual campers using city property for purposes of free speech, with the permits renewable every seven days. Permitted campers would be responsible for health and safety issues, and subject to possible fines for damage to the site. Council member Cecil Bothwell, the committee’s chair, agreed with Smith. The original proposals would have banned camping, enclosed structures and storage on city property.

Council member Jan Davis, the remaining member of the committee, noted that while he didn’t completely agree with the originally proposed camping rules, he felt they had some good aspects, and the full Council should review it. He felt that complaints by surrounding business owners and some city employees about issues created by the site had to be addressed.

The decision followed over 45 minutes of public comment, where many Occupy Asheville members asked the committee to drop the proposed bans. The training room on the municipal building’s fourth floor was full, mostly with protesters. Some also opposed Smith’s permit proposal, saying they needed to be free or that the alternative was to “cooperate with Occupy Asheville.” Naomi Archer, a spokesperson for the protesters, noted that the Raleigh-based law firm Edelstein and Payne was watching the controversy closely, and delivered a letter from attorney Travis Payne asserting that the ban originally proposed is unconstitutional. She added that the city began to take Occupy Asheville seriously when the movement found that camping on non-park city property wasn’t outright prohibited under city ordinance and set up its tents on a narrow swath of land in front of City Hall.

Smith noted that he believed the city needed to charge a minimal fee for the camping permits to recoup costs, preferable to asking “taxpayers to subsidize a political movement they might not agree with.” He added that the permits for individual campers would allow Occupy Asheville to keep out “interlopers:” belligerents uninvolved with the movement some members had mentioned as an ongoing issue at the current camp.


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5 thoughts on “Instead of ban, Council committee recommends permit process for Occupy Asheville campers

  1. D. Dial

    Our taxpayer monies go to City Staff to thoroughly research ALL aspects of issues like the Occupy encampment. But all I heard at the Public Safety was elaborate ways to prevent the movement from expressing their outrage.

    For once I’d like to see our staff actually do a thorough job, not just come up with solutions that only apply to keeping the status quo.

  2. Matthew Burd

    I agree with D. Dial.

    City Staff and the Committee failed to recognise that the occupiers are the members of public whom they are supposed to be looking out for. The occupation is in accordance with city & state laws as they stand currently, but there are still aspects of safety and sanitation that are not being addressed by the city. It is outrageous to me that this city doesn’t have a 24 hour public restroom. Even Jan Davis has publicly stated the need for one. 8 years ago there was a discusion in City Council about putting self cleaning restrooms in at Pack Square, but they held off because they were going to install perminate restrooms as part of the Pack master plan. That never happened and the public has suffered because of it. Now the City won’t even allow the occupiers to supply there own portajohns. WTF?

    Our City leaders need to stop worrying about the aesthetic status quo and state worrying about the public well being instead.

  3. localworker

    The city (well, Sheriff’s office) closes the 24 hour bathrooms available in the area, just to spite those exercising their democratic free speech rights on behalf of all of us, in the bitter cold, and then pretends to be concerned for the public safety?

    If the city cares so much about public safety, why not do a blanket drive so that occupiers can stay warm through these nights?

    A permitting process here will never work. Permits are not needed for constitutionally protected rights.

  4. D. Dial

    Had the entity charged with the renovation of the public square done a timely job, bathrooms would not even be an issue. This is typical of the lax oversight by the City Attorney and Managers office. Why’s Jackson and Oast still employed??? How much has their incompetance cost the City????

    I request that the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority rescind its grant to the Pack Square Conservancy, made for the purpose of constructing a visitor center and restroom facility, and grant the money to the City of Asheville for the same purpose.

    The City of Asheville has repeatedly demonstrated the ability to complete construction projects in a timely manner and frequently under estimate.

    The Pack Square Conservancy has repeatedly demonstrated an astonishing inability to complete projects on time or within anything like original estimates.

    The further delay of the long promised restroom facilities, apparently in response to the requests of a small segment of special interests in our community is beyond laughable. I am completely fed up with the Conservancy’s ineptitude and delays.

    It is long past time for a thorough and professional audit of the Conservancy books over its entire life, with an accounting to the people of this community for all moneys spent for any purpose and it is also long past time for the City and County to reclaim the park that has been held hostage by a confederacy of dunces for far too long.

    The people of Asheville and Buncombe County deserve better.

    Thanks for your attention.

    Cecil Bothwell
    Asheville City Council”

  5. D. Dial

    Grrr! Qoute indicators are missing …Cecil bothwells statement begins with “I request that the Buncombe County Tourism Development Authority rescind its grant to the Pack Square Conservancy,”

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