Before the summer recess, the Town Council discussed safety concerns of pedestrians in roadways, solicitation, and urban camping, and asked staff to review similar ordinances in other communities and bring these ideas back to the Council. At the Aug. 22 Town Council meeting, staff returned with three draft ordinances for consideration.
The first ordinance addressed safety concerns inherent to individuals stopping or standing in medians, especially along high-traffic thoroughfares. Consistent with Council direction, staff presented a proposed amendment to Article 12-2 of the Town Code to prohibit individuals standing or stopping in the roadway with a 35 mph or greater speed limit, with exceptions for emergency personnel and maintenance workers. A 4-3 margin approved this ordinance.
Another concern at the June 20 Council Meeting was the negative impact of panhandling on businesses, homeowners, and residents. The council asked staff to develop an ordinance identical in form and substance to the ordinance the City of Glendale approved in October 2022. The proposed ordinance failed by a 4-3 margin.
The third ordinance discussed urban camping and unintended consequences for businesses and residents. Staff proposed an ordinance prohibiting a person from using public streets, alleys, roadways, or other public right-of-way for lying, sleeping, or camping, except in the case of a physical emergency or in other limited circumstances. The ordinance also reinforced that camping is not allowed any public park or place except where expressly authorized by the Town. The ordinance is similar in form and substance to urban camping ordinances found in other Arizona cities and towns. This ordinance passed with a 5-2 margin.
The council held further discussion regarding the impact and implementation of these ordinances. The Town of Fountain Hills and the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, the agency contracted by the Town for public safety, will continue to follow the law and provide safety to all residents and those individuals who are unsheltered. The new ordinances enacted enhance existing Town Codes. Council recognizes that per federal law, the ordinance may be enforced where an involuntary homeless person has access to a shelter space or another location to go to if ordered to vacate. Fountain Hills is exploring options for shelter space and how our community can help support the effort to address homelessness.
“As active members of the regional efforts to address homelessness, we are committed to doing our part to work toward solutions for those who are unsheltered as well as protect property and everyday life for residents, businesses, and visitors,” Town of Fountian Hills Mayor, Ginny Dickey.
The Town is a member of the Maricopa Association of Governments (MAG) who is spearheading the effort to address the unsheltered issue in the Phoenix region. Though Fountain Hills does not have direct services to help unsheltered, the Town has provided funding to support valley wide efforts to find immediate and long-term solutions to this complex and challenging issue.