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Vote split on urban camping ordinance in Lula
Lula City Hall sign

Lula City Council could not make a decision Monday night, April 18, when voting on a new urban camping ordinance. 

The ordinance is similar to Gainesville’s urban camping ordinance, which passed in 2018, making it illegal to camp, sleep or store property in public parks, along roads and under bridges. Offenders must be given a written or verbal warning before being arrested, but punishment for urban camping would be up to six months in prison and/or a fine up to $1,000.

Gene Bramlett and Garnett Smith voted in favor of the ordinance, and Matt Hamby voted against it. But Denise Shockley and Lamb Griffin abstained. The 2-1 vote caused the issue to be tabled for a month until the council’s next meeting. 

The vote has been discussed at two formal public hearings over the last week with some public disagreement. 

Eric Stewart, a local pastor, spoke in opposition to the ordinance at both opportunities, saying that the city did not have a homeless problem, it had a drug and alcohol problem. He said Gainesville’s similar ordinance has not helped the issue, it has just moved homeless people farther out. 

He also read a letter from Mandy Stewart, founder of Love Your Neighbor Ministries, who also opposed the ordinance, writing that it would not solve the city’s homelessness problem. 

Felton Wood advocated for the ordinance Monday, saying that it would help deter the city’s homeless issue from getting worse. Residents and council members have said they’ve heard more complaints about homeless people trespassing and sleeping in public areas in the past year. 

Smith said the ordinance would help deter people from sleeping on the streets. But Hamby said after the meeting that he didn’t agree with the fines and prison time included in the ordinance. There were other ways to solve the problem, he said. 

Shockley said she couldn’t decide after the last two weeks and hearing from several local residents. “I’m kind of on the fence,” she said regarding her abstaining vote. “I’m not 100% sold on the exact resolution.”