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Edmonds City Council ends special meeting before voting on proposed camping ordinance

The council's potential vote comes after revisions were made to the ordinance following concerns raised regarding the original proposal.

EDMONDS, Wash. — The Edmonds City Council did not vote on a revised proposal intended to reduce illegal camping on public property during a special meeting Thursday night.

The meeting, specifically set to discuss the ordinance, abruptly ended before any action could be taken.

Under the ordinance, penalties would be enforced if there is evidence that someone intends to illegally occupy city property, at least overnight, and refuses shelter. Shelter space would need to be available in order for the ordinance to be enforced. 

Other services would also be offered to those experiencing homelessness, according to the ordinance.

The ordinance was originally brought up for a vote when it was introduced on April 26. However, several questions were brought up and the meeting ended before a vote.

The ordinance was amended during the May 3 meeting, but the meeting adjourned before action could be taken.

According to the May 5 special meeting agenda, the revised ordinance that was not voted on "makes it clear" it is illegal for anyone to occupy or store personal belonging on public property overnight, if shelter is refused. 

The ordinance "seeks to establish a compassionate approach to assist the unhoused residents of our city by first offering human service, including available shelter, and only causing the penalty provisions to be enforced when available shelter is refused," language in the ordinance states.

A first-time violator would be fined up to $1,000 or face up to 90 days in jail, or both. Those who violate the law a second time within five years would face a misdemeanor and the same fine and jail time - $100 of the fine and one day of imprisonment would not be suspended or deferred. Third and subsequent offenses would face the same penalty, with $500 of the fine and five days imprisonment not to be suspended or deferred.

Those unable to pay the monetary penalty would face community service or be placed on a work crew.

Mary Anne Dillon, the Snohomish County Executive Director of the YWCA emergency women's shelter in Lynnwood, said the ordinance is puzzling. That shelter, which accommodates women and children, has 13 units with a maximum capacity of 35. 

Dillon said it is the only sheltering option for south Snohomish County.

Dillon believes the city should work in reverse, creating viable sheltering options before establishing such an ordinance.

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