Public areas ordinance aims to wipe out unruly behavior
In Lockhart, if you’re going to poop in the street, you’d better be flush with cash.
Ordinance 2021-19 now includes a new article titled “Use of Public Areas” that prohibits camping, bathing, urinating and defecating in public areas and subjects such actions to a fine not to exceed $500.
The Lockhart City Council on Tuesday voted unanimously to clarify the ordinance, which applies to homelessness and camping in public places.
The action by council follows direction given to the City Attorney on June 15 to clarify and consolidate existing regulations.
That direction from council came on the heels of Gov. Greg Abbott signing HB 1925 into law. The legislation, which goes into effect in September, imposes a statewide ban on camping in public places and bars local governments from prohibiting or discouraging enforcement of the ban.
Prior to the signing of HB 1925 into law, City of Austin voters petitioned for a referendum on reinstating a public camping ban that had been lifted in 2019 after people experiencing homelessness began increasingly setting up tents and shelters under overpasses, in parks and on sidewalks. Fifty-seven percent of voters approved reestablishment of criminal penalties for camping in public places.
Lockhart Chief of Police Ernest Pedraza on June 15 said there had been no incident reports that suggest public camping is a point of concern in the city.
Prior to Tuesday night’s action, twelve existing City of Lockhart ordinances regulated living outdoors on public property, including prohibitions against camping in city parks and playgrounds, building fires outside of areas designated for fires, placing obstructions in City Streets and consuming alcohol on streets and sidewalks and in parks.
The council’s approval of the item took place during the consent agenda.