Aberdeen council passes second reading for homeless camp regulations

The Aberdeen City Council passed a second reading of an ordinance that restricts access and activities at the city’s riverfront homeless encampment Wednesday, with an amendment to allow legal firearms on the property.

Council member Tim Alstrom made the amendment, which deletes a sentence in the originally proposed ordinance that stated “weapons are not allowed on the property.” Alstrom elaborated, saying it leaves the city open for further lawsuits if they don’t allow firearms that are protected under the Second Amendment to be on the property.

“The intent of this ordinance is really not about weapons, it’s about people living on property that’s not inhabitable,” said Alstrom, who said he discussed the issue previously with Aberdeen’s police chief and the city attorney. “I believe by leaving that in there, it leaves us open for a legal challenge on that issue that’s really not the main issue we’re trying to discuss.”

To further explain, Aberdeen Mayor Erik Larson said existing city restrictions on weapons other than firearms, such as bows and arrows, throwing stars, and long knives brandished in a certain way, will still apply to people at the riverfront.

Following a federal suit against the City of Aberdeen by three homeless advocates, a judge advised the city to throw out its permit system for visitors to the homeless camp. The city’s ordinance states that people won’t need permits from the city to enter the property, and lists new rules like visitors can only enter between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m., and that alcohol and illegal drugs are not allowed on the property.

The amendment was approved unanimously except for Council President Tawni Andrews, who voted against eliminating the no weapons rule.

There will be a third and final reading of the ordinance at the next council meeting Feb. 12 before it is passed.