Happy campers are beginning to make city officials less than happy.
Lawrence city commissioners on Tuesday will consider approving a new ordinance that will make it illegal for two long-term campers to set up make-shift living quarters in public parking spots in front of South Park.
“Massachusetts Street is not meant to be a mobile home park, for sure,” Mayor Bob Schumm said.
At their weekly meeting, commissioners will consider an ordinance that will make it illegal to park camping trailers, recreational vehicles and other similar vehicles of a certain size in the public parking places along several city streets that abut South Park. Specifically, the ordinance will prohibit camping-oriented vehicles in spots on: Massachusetts Street between 11th and South Park streets; South Park Street from Vermont to New Hampshire streets; and Vermont Street from South Park to 11th streets.
The ordinance would allow for a $50 fine each day. After a second offense, the city would be authorized to tow the vehicle.
Michael Tanner, a Lawrence street musician, has been camping in front of South Park in a wooden, home-made trailer since mid-2011, he estimated. At least one other individual regularly uses a parking spot as a camping spot.
City code currently allows the longer-term parking of vehicles in non-residential areas, as long as the vehicles are moved from the parking spots at least every 48 hours.
Tanner said he complies with that requirement and resents the city for trying to disrupt his living arrangements.
“They want me to lose everything I own so I have to lay in that (homeless) shelter and sleep in slop,” Tanner said. “They don’t like it when somebody like me pulls themselves out of the gutter.”
Tanner does have an acrimonious history with Lawrence City Hall. Most notably, Tanner was responsible for building a homeless camp on city property near the Kansas River, just north of the Santa Fe Depot. The city razed those structures in 2008, and Tanner has said repeatedly that he has never forgiven the city for those actions.
City officials, though, said they have had several complaints in recent weeks about Tanner and the other man who are living next to the park and playground area. Schumm said he thinks there are potential health concerns by allowing the activity, such as the potential for inappropriate disposal of sewage.
In a November Journal-World article, Tanner said he used city facilities — such as the nearby Community Building — for showers and other basic services.
Schumm said he has asked city staff members to research whether there are other areas people could legally park their campers in the city. Schumm said if there are not, the individuals could rent space in a mobile home park or campground area.
“The city streets don’t owe them a long-term camping spot,” Schumm said.
Commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday at City Hall.