Board passes new camping ordinance — but it was close

By Debra Moore

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It required a four-fifths vote to pass the new camping ordinance and that’s just what it received. Supervisor Jeff Engel voted no, while Supervisors Kevin Goss, Greg Hagwood and Tom McGowan voted yes. The last to cast his vote, Board Chairman Dwight Ceresola, didn’t respond immediately, prompting the clerk of the board to ask him again. If he voted no, the measure would fail. After a long pause, he voted yes.

The vote came following a public hearing held during the board’s June 6 meeting. They had discussed the ordinance three times previously on April 18, May 2 and May 9. The board was seeking a way to limit long-term camping in neighborhoods, but there were unintended consequences — essentially making backyard camping not allowable either. But a change that would have approved letting kids pitch a tent in the yard for a couple of days would also make it allowable for someone to camp on vacant lots throughout the county.

Planning Director Tracey Ferguson presented a brief update on the ordinance and how it was being described as “too enforcement heavy,” impacting residents and the High Sierra Music Festival.

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She said that she and her staff met with the fair manager and county counsel and with HSMF staff. A minor license amendment will eliminate issues for High Sierra. Ferguson said that she and her staff recommend the ordinance as put forth by the planning commission.

Board Chairman Dwight Ceresola opened the public hearing. Tina Marie, who spoke on this issue before, did so once again via zoom. She voiced her continued objections to the ordinance and said that it denies property owners from using their land. She was the only member of the public to speak and Ceresola closed the public hearing.

District 3 Supervisor Tom McGowan represents the Lake Almanor Basin where camping on private property in residential areas has become an issue. He said the intent of the ordinance was to prevent long-term parking and camping in areas, but now it meant that someone couldn’t even camp in their backyard.

Planning Director Ferguson reminded McGowan that the ordinance is complaint based, so someone would have to contact the county to complain.

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“I’m not going to approve this,” District 5 Supervisor Jeff Engel announced. “This is a code enforcement nightmare.”

The county’s code enforcement officer said the ordinance is necessary to enforce the existing code.

District 4 Supervisor Greg Hagwood said there are other areas that this ordinance touches on such as squatters and homeless encampments that are a sanitary disaster. “So that’s the flip side of this coin,” he said. “This allows us to solve more problems than it creates.”

Sheriff Todd Johns said that he has never been called to someone’s house because they have friends camping at their house. “Supervisor Hagwood hit it right on the head,” he said. “When you have people camping on the bike path, we need a means to deal with it.”

District 2 Supervisor Kevin Goss said he would like to see it move forward, and modified later if necessary, so that areas in his district could be addressed.

Supervisor Tom McGowan said he supported addressing the situation now. “We have an existing problem,” and “this could help code enforcement.” He agreed with Goss that a modification could be added later. “Don’t want to become Chico; this would help prevent that,” he said. He made the motion to approve the ordinance and it received the four-fifths vote required.

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5 thoughts on “Board passes new camping ordinance — but it was close

  • Our leadership sucks

  • This is very anti-homeless. Is this all because of the camp next to the cemetery in Quincy? Seems like a lot of effort to go through just to exclude one person. We live in a rural area, we should camp as much as we please – especially if you own the land.

  • Does anyone want to interrupt this gibberish? Or at least give some references to help define zones 2-R, 3-R, 7-R, M-R, C-1, C-3, Rec-OS, OS, L. Leadership needs to be able to communicate with their constituents. I wonder if our county supervisors could sit down and differentiate between each of those zoning codes. The general public certainly can not. So as a defense of violating this ordinance one might try the fact that the common citizenry can not understand the ordinance as written or that the definition of “camping” is vague and ambiguous. As a service to the public, try putting this into common english. I see the need for some ordinance everytime I come down cemetery hill going west. I suspect a sanitation ordinance would do the trick in that case.

    I for one will let my grandkids sleep in my backyard anytime they want. I have no idea if I live in a “Prime Opportunity Area” or what the definition of camping is.

  • Here we go—bringing world insanity into our precious mountain county. I was born and raised here—never dreamed the day would come when you would be breaking an ordinance camping —or allowing someone else to—on your own property. Guess that will also do away with Hipcamping. Ugh! This world is insane! I would welcome backyard camping, lemonade stands, and kids playing hide-and-go-seek (amount other things) again!!!

  • It saddens me that this county is so overtly hating unhoused individuals. From the community killing housing projects that would expand housing to ordinances that disproportionately affect unhoused people who are unable to find better alternatives. The county seems very much like they want to push any homelessness out of the county and to other areas which is not right. How about expand resources and create options for unhoused people to live free of hassle and discrimination, not the inverse. I expect here in the next short few years this county will either nose dive harder or a changing of the gaurd may hopefully occur. Shameful. There are other solutions to the specific problem and this is not it.

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