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Council takes step closer to banning camping in public, outdoor cannabis growing
Camping outside library
Camping in public places, such as here aside the Ceres Library last August, will soon be outlawed within Ceres. Last week the council gave orders to draw up changes to the Ceres Municipal Code which will enable the city to cite violators. - photo by JEFF BENZIGER/ Courier file photo

The process of banning of overnight camping in commercial parking lots within Ceres started with last year’s council continued with the new City Council last week.

Next week the council will also bring back proposed text amendment changes to the Ceres Municipal Code to officially ban the outdoor cultivation of cannabis on any properties in Ceres. Indoor growing of up to six plants is allowed inside residential houses.

In October Ceres resident John Warren voiced concerns about blight from homeless persons setting up camp in commercial parking lots. Using photos, Warren called attention to the growing presence of homeless persons camping out on the south side of Hatch Road in October showed a rundown motorhome in the parking lot west of Wendy’s surrounded by several shopping carts filled with junk and two other dilapidated cars parked next to it. One of the vehicles was on a jack for repairs on a wheel.

The city does not currently have an ordinance that regulates overnight camping in public places and commercial zones except for the city’s parks. Camping is defined as “to pitch, sleep in, cook in, occupy camp facilities, or use camp paraphernalia for the purpose of temporary or permanent human habitation or domicile.” “Camp facilities” include, but are not limited to, tents, huts, temporary shelters, trailers, and vehicles.

The ordinance changes would ban camping in all public places, which have been defined as “any publicly owned property in the city, improved or unimproved, including, but not limited to, any of the following: public alleyways; public parking lots; public passageways; public streets; public rights-of-way; publicly owned, maintained, or operated parks; publicly owned, maintained, or operated landscaped areas or greenbelts; publicly owned, maintained, or operated open spaces, including, but not limited to, those adjacent to City Hall or other public facilities or buildings of any kind; and public sidewalks, curbs, and gutters.”

The ordinance changes proposed would forbid anyone from overnight camping – even in RVs – in all public or private commercial and industrial related zoned properties. The ban covers the time period from 12 midnight to 5 a.m.

The city does allow certain provisions for out-of-town visitor to park outside of a family member’s house to sleep in an RVs through a city permit but few have ever sought such a permit. 

The council debated the time frame that would be given individuals to leave a site once informed they are breaking the law. As written the text changes would have given an illegal camper to cease and desist after five days of notification or citation. Councilwoman Linda Ryno told the council five days was too long; that violators should clear out right away.

However, Councilman Bret Silveira said giving someone up to eight hours seems reasonable given they would need to make arrangements on where next to travel.

The proposed ordinance was written to allow three infractions to occur before it would become a misdemeanor. Vice Mayor Couper Condit suggested lowering three infractions to two.

An irate and agitated John Osgood phoned into via Zoom saying he is a commercial truck driver and wanted an exemption for commercial drivers taking mandated breaks. He also expressed anger that his emails were not returned, saying “the swear words will start coming out soon if you people don’t give me the just due that I deserve.”

Warren suggested daytime camping as well as overnight. He also suggested that violator clear out immediately. He addressed Osgood’s concern, saying roadside rest stops are intended to be places where long-haul truckers take their rest breaks from driving.

Silveira asked staff to carve out exemptions for truck drivers. He also motioned to give a violator eight hours to leave instead of five days. Councilwoman Linda Ryno wanted language to prevent people from camping in residential areas while still allowing people visiting families to do so by permit.