Tucker passes ‘urban camping’ ordinance; law will primarily affect homeless within city limits

FILE PHOTO USED FOR ILLUSTRATION PURPOSES: Lee Hampton on right, case manager and P.A.T.H. (Projects for Assistance in Transitioning from Homelessness) team coordinator form Mercy Care calls another person forward to begin the transportation process. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Tucker, GA — After weeks of deliberation, Tucker City Council unanimously passed an ordinance on urban camping on March 8. The urban camping ordinance would primarily affect homeless people living in Tucker’s city limits. It defines urban camping as any living arrangement, sleeping, cooking or storage of personal property in a public place.

City staff introduced the ordinance on Jan. 12, but the item did not gain traction from residents until Feb. 8. That’s when councilmembers heard from local experts during the meeting, and split a vote to table the ordinance until March.  

Resident Alexis Weaver said at the Feb. 8 meeting, “A community-based framework allows for a compassionate, well-informed response, so it works with those impacted, rather than against them. Starting this process with criminalization is wrong.”

A task force was formed, and advised council members to remove the threat of arrest from the ordinance. Council made a slight change to the ordinance, adding that officers must give a verbal offer of services prior to arrest. 

The ordinance passage reads:  

Sec.30-103. – Warning 

  1. No person may be arrested for violating this section by simply sleeping, sitting or lying down in a prohibited location or for a prohibited period of time without having first received an oral or written warning and verbal offer of services (including, but not limited to transportation, shelter, and/or agency referral) to cease such unlawful conduct.

Mayor Frank Auman said he continues to deliver a monthly COVID-19 report because “there is all kinds of information out there, a lot of it bad.” Auman reported positive cases have been declining rapidly since the second week of January. 

Georgia has administered 2.3 million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine, approximately 20 percent of the state’s population. Starting March 8, vaccine-eligible group 1a expanded to include teachers and parents of medically fragile children. DeKalb County announced the return to school buildings on March 9.  

Tucker City Hall is also opening to the public this week. City council meetings are being offered in person and virtually. 

“If you need to come to City Hall, you’re welcome to,” according to Auman, who said protocols are in place to accommodate the public including a UV filtration system to clean the air. 

Parks and Recreation Department Director Rip Robertson announced four projects, all approved by council members. 

– The historic house and two outbuildings at Johns Homestead Park will be stabilized for $24,000 thanks to DeKalb County Commissioner Steve Bradshaw. 

– A bridge at Kelly Cofer Park, a future part of Tucker’s PATH trail system, will be repaired for $49,600 from the city’s general fund. 

– Tucker Recreation Center will upgrade the HVAC system by adding a UV lighting filtration system to improve system efficiency, cleaner coil and drain pans for better long-term maintenance and overall indoor air quality. For $38,425, the project will be funded by the city’s general fund. 

– Lastly, a resolution was passed to accept grant money from National Fitness Campaign and Georgia Recreation and Parks Association to partially pay for an outdoor gym at the site of the Church Street Project. 

City engineer Ken Hildebrandt announced a massive paving project is set to begin this week in Tucker. Funded by SPLOST dollars, the paving of 50-plus streets will cost $4 million. Council members also approved a $63,000 on-call contract Southeastern Engineering Inc. to oversee the work. 

The first read of an ordinance for a Special Land Use Permit introduced CDC Federal Credit Union’s new branch at Northlake Mall. The 3,200-sq. ft. building with drive-through lanes and canopy is planned for 4816 Briarcliff Road NE. 

CDC Federal Credit Union CEO and Tucker resident Australia Hoover said, “The credit union is excited to add some value to the community in which we serve. We serve not only Centers for Disease Control employees; we serve others in the life sciences community as well as those underserved. To be able to have a presence at Northlake Mall is exciting for us.”

City staff presented a first read of an ordinance to clarify language in the city’s code on corner lots. No changes are being made to the policy. The change passed Planning Commission on Feb. 18.   

A second read of the SLUP and the text amendment on will be presented on April 12.

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