Kokomo City Council moves anti-homeless ordinance vote to April

Mar. 27—A proposed anti-homeless ordinance originally set to be voted on by the Kokomo City Council on Monday will now be heard in April.

City Council President Ray Collins, R-District 3, continued the City Council's second and final reading vote on the ordinance, which would prohibit "camping and the storage of personal property" overnight or for one or more nights in public spaces, to the board's April 8 meeting.

Collins said he chose to delay the vote because two City Council members — Tom Miklik and Tony Stewart — were absent from Monday's meeting and he wanted to give the opportunity to all council members to have a vote on the possibly contentious ordinance.

"After consulting with (City Council Attorney Corbin King) and some factors of some council members not being able here due to spring break and wanting to give people an opportunity to speak, that ordinance has been moved to April 8," Collins said.

The council president said the decision to continue the vote was made Friday before the ordinance could be formally removed from the board's meeting agenda.

There were some in the audience Monday who wanted to speak on the proposed ordinance. That will now have to wait until 6 p.m. April 8 in the council chambers at Kokomo City Hall, 100 S. Union St.

The ordinance, which passed first reading two weeks ago by an 8-1 vote along party lines, seeks to ban the homeless from sleeping overnight in public places not designated for such activities.

The ordinance would allow police or other city employees to immediately remove the encampment and any other personal items if the city deems the encampment to be a "substantial risk of harm" to any person or the public.

If not deemed a substantial risk, the city must give 48-hour notice it will be removing the encampment and any other personal items and leave a note detailing where the items can be picked up.

If personal property is removed and taken by the city, it will store the belongings for not less than 60 days before disposing of them.

Those "indigent" or homeless are exempt from enforcement of the proposed ordinance unless there's overnight sleeping availability at one of the city's shelters and the person is provided transportation.

The ordinance drew criticism from newly-elected councilman Bob Stephenson, D-District 2, who said he believed the city is trying to take the easy way out "to a complex problem." He especially didn't like the possibility of a homeless person being arrested for trespassing if they refuse to go to a shelter with an open bed. Stephenson was the sole no vote on the ordinance's first reading.

The ordinance comes in response to what the city says is an uptick in the homeless sleeping overnight in public spaces, particularly downtown.

In 2020, a "tent city" was established alongside the treeline of Future Park. It was removed by the city in early 2021 and some of its occupants moved to local shelters.

In some cases, the city has had to clean urine and feces from public spaces, including near City Hall and in the downtown parking garages.


In other news, the City Council voted to approve two separate rezoning requests, one pertaining to a proposed spec building on the city's north side and another to allow a couple to build and operate a small retail establishment on the old We Care Park property.

Spec Building

The City Council approved the property at 414 E. 400, just north of the Stellantis Indiana Transmission Plant, to be rezoned from agriculture to high intensity industrial/heavy manufacturing.

Rob Young, vice president of special projects for Fort Wayne's The Hagerman Group and the person representing developer HH Kokomo Spec I LLC, said earlier this month the proposed project includes a 150,000 square feet shell, or "spec," building on the roughly 22-acre property to attract a new business or for an expansion or relocation of an existing business.

Young said the building will be primarily marketed to EV suppliers to complement both StarPlus Energy EV battery manufacturing plants.

The City Council also approved Monday annexing the property into the city limits.

Trail snacks

The City Council also approved rezoning the old We Care Park property, 2341 N. Market St., from urban residential to neighborhood commercial.

David and Vickie Reisetter bought the property from former longtime owners Mike and Nancy Wyant in 2021 and now want to build a "small walkup retail establishment" on the property to sell bottled soda and water, prepackaged frozen treats and more to users of the nearby Industrial Heritage Trail.

"There's a lot of foot traffic in that area, especially during the summer," David Reisetter said.

Tyler Juranovich can be reached at 765-454-8577, by email at tyler.juranovich@kokomotribune.com or on Twitter at @tylerjuranovich.