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Missoula City Council approves urban camping ordinance

The Missoula City Council voted 10-2 in favor of adopting a new urban camping ordinance on Monday evening
Missoula City Council during the pledge of allegiance, Missoula
Posted at 4:50 AM, Jun 25, 2024

MISSOULA — Following months of planning and discussion, the Missoula City Council voted 10-2 on Monday in favor of adopting a new urban camping ordinance that has regulations on when and where it is allowed.

Council members agreed on an amended urban camping ordinance that sets guidelines for the issue after a meeting that lasted over nine hours.

The ordinance restricts times when urban camping is allowed on public property, sets a restriction on setting up camps near businesses and schools, and requires a permit to live out of a vehicle among other rules.

People using public land to camp will be allowed to do so between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. and will then have to clear out.

One of the four amendments discussed that was approved allows the owners of unpermitted vehicles being used for urban camping to choose where their vehicle can be moved to if it needs to be moved by the city.

Council members voted to approve the ordinance despite a large outcry from residents who either did not support it or had issues with some of the policies.

Many people called the policies in the ordinance “inhumane” and they emphasized how forcing people to move their camping setup would do more harm than good.

Other people who did support the ordinance still had concerns with some of the policies but thought it was a step in the right direction toward progress.

Below is information from the City of Missoula pertaining to the ordinance:

  1. Time: An Unsheltered Individual may camp between the hours of 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. After 8 a.m., an Unsheltered Individual must dismantle the camp structure and remove all personal property and camp structures from the camp site until 8 p.m.
  2. Place: No camping in camp structures on City property is permitted, regardless of the availability of shelter space, in the following locations:
    1. Within 100 feet of a public entrance of any commercial business or non-profit organization.
    2. Within 300 feet (approximately the length of a standard City block) of any parcel or lot containing any public or private school, including secondary, elementary, or preschool, or any lot or parcel containing a daycare.
    3. Within 300 feet of any shelter facility (e.g. those providing shelter to unhoused populations, victims of domestic violence, transitional housing, etc…)
    4. Within 300 feet of an area designated by the Mayor as safe parking sites or designated temporary camping sites.
    5. Within McCormick Park, Caras Park, and Westside Park, Jacob’s Island Bark Park, and MRL Park, and in other parks not listed no camping within 100 feet of a: playground; splash deck; paved sport court; athletic fields and diamonds (which include only fields and diamonds that are lined for official games; and is not intended to include fields that may occasionally be used for casual play or practice); fishing or skating ponds; dog park; aquatic facility (including splash decks and buildings/facilities that house pools); bandshell; pavilion or other covered structure located within a park regulatedd by Chapter 12.40
    6. On or within 10 feet of a bike lane, public pathway, trail, or trailhead, or so as to block free passage on a sidewalk (sidewalks must have six feet of clear, unobstructed space).
    7. Within 50 feet of the water’s edge for the Clark Fork River, Bitterroot River, Rattlesnake Creek, or Grant Creek, including any side channels or backwaters thereof, where those waterways are located within City limits.
    8. Areas temporarily or permanently signed no camping due to environmental degradation or because of public health, safety and or welfare concerns.

Click here to view the full ordinance.

The ordinance will go into effect within the next month.