FAYETTEVILLE -- The city attorney plans to cite a code violation against a camping spot used by about a dozen unsheltered people, a City Council committee was told Wednesday.
"The city prosecutor will be filing a court case," City Attorney Kit Williams told members of the council's Ordinance Review Committee, in regards to resident Richard Tiffany. Tiffany owns property on South Lt. Col. Leroy Pond Avenue, immediately north of the Fayetteville National Cemetery.
Tiffany, who attended the meeting, has allowed people experiencing homelessness to live on the property for about a dozen years. At least 20 people attended the meeting at City Hall, most to object to disturbances, trash, odors and other nuisances associated with the property. Tiffany protested the complaints were exaggerations.
Wednesday's meeting was held to discuss possible changes to the city's ordinance regarding camping in the city. Committee member Scott Berna said during discussion he was convinced the requirement for a conditional use permit was indispensable.
Running a campground on private property in city limits requires a conditional use permit issued by city government, but Tiffany maintains he has a right to allow people to seek refuge on his land. The city issued a code violation letter in October, saying a campground was operating within a property zoned for multifamily residential use.
"We have a housing crisis in Fayetteville and a housing crisis in Northwest Arkansas, but letting people camp in your backyard is not the answer," Berna said.
But removing unsheltered people from Tiffany's property will not solve the problem of the city's lack of enough appropriate shelters either, committee member Sarah Moore said. "People have frozen to death in our parks," she said.
Leaving people exposed on an inadequate and unmaintained site with poor drainage is not solving the lack of appropriate shelter either, said Jannie D. Layne of Springdale, whose son is buried in the national cemetery.
"This is a homeless encampment, not a campground," she said.
Denise Youngblood of Fayetteville said local residents have had bicycles and even motorcycles stolen, and that she has watched beatings among the homeless from her balcony.
Kathy Kisida of Fayetteville also told the committee the property is barely maintained with no adequate trash pickup, no facilities for washing or sanitation and no cooking station.
Fayetteville Police Capt. Brad Renfro said the department has responded to a number of calls at the property over the years. Since 2013, there have been 328 police calls for service and 149 fire calls, totaling 447, he said. In 2021, there were 27 disturbance calls, nine last year and eight so far this year, he said. A stabbing was reported last July.
Most of those police calls were against people harassing the people seeking refuge there, Tiffany said. One woman who fled to his land was harassed by her ex-husband and that case alone resulted in nine police calls, he said.
The committee made no final recommendations for any ordinance changes Wednesday.
"I'm afraid this issue will take a few meetings," Chairwoman Holly Hertzberg told the committee.