City Passes Ordinance Banning Sitting On Sidewalk

Saratoga Springs enacts ban on sidewalk-sitting

SARATOGA SPRINGS >> The Saratoga Springs City Council sent a message Tuesday to those who sit on city sidewalks: don’t do it.

The council voted 4-1 to approve a measure that bans people from sitting on sidewalks. Mayor Joanne Yepsen cast the lone dissenting vote, saying she believed it was too harsh.

According to the measure, a person sitting or laying on a sidewalk would be first issued a warning. If the person refuses to move, they could be hit with a $50 to $100 fine, which could increase for more offenses within 24-hour time period.

After that, the person could be charged with a misdemeanor, meaning they could face a $400 to $500 fine, community service, imprisonment, or both a fine and imprisonment.

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The law comes at a time when elected officials, business leaders and community service groups are grappling with the problem of aggressive panhandlers and vagrants who congregate in downtown Saratoga Springs. City officials have been working with agencies to find a solution to the problem.

A public hearing took place before the vote. The majority of residents in attendance had opposing words to say regarding the sidewalk measure, with few actually in support of it.

A common complaint among most the measure’s opponents was they thought it targeted the homeless population in Saratoga Springs. People felt this measure would not get those individuals the help that they need, but merely create a problematic situation for them if they face a fine or the possibility of being arrested.

“It’s targeting a specific group of people … it’s disgusting,” said one woman.

Another man spoke directly to the city council, insinuating that they do not understand people who are different than them. The issue of a gap between city officials and the lower-class population was a common point made by many individuals at the public hearing.

One man spoke in support of the bill, saying that this is strictly a public safety issue. He recited a story of a time when he witnessed an aggressive panhandler harassing individuals on the sidewalk.

“Aggressive and professional panhandlers come here,” he said.

Public Safety Commissioner Christian Mathiesen spoke strongly in support of the bill throughout the public hearing, reiterating that it was about safety, not about targeting one group or anyone’s way of life.

“People have a right to walk on the sidewalk without being obstructed,” he said. “We should not turn this into something it’s not.”

He also stated that if complaints were not being made about people tripping over others on the sidewalks, then this ordinance would not be brought into effect. He said that the City Council has an obligation to do something.

The final speaker during the public hearing welcomed the “vibrancy” and diversity of Saratoga Springs, saying she opens her windows at night because of it.

“Don’t let that end,” she said. “Don’t let Saratoga be a one-horse town.”

7 thoughts on “City Passes Ordinance Banning Sitting On Sidewalk”

  1. Johnny, I think some of the people who live in this town, along with the mayor …don’t get it. The panhandlers are aggressive and potentially dangerous .They add nothing to the ” vibrancy” of Saratoga and don’t need to homestead here because the mayor will provide for them. The police have been too lenient , too long ….maybe now the problem will be solved. Stay safe. Joey

    Liked by 1 person

  2. The police wanted nothing to do with this law and begged the Council to rethink it. So for Mathieson to say he wants to pass this to help the police do their jobs is misleading at best. This law is unenforceable and has the potential to make our city look terrible. This story is not over and the backlash will have media legs for some time now. Bad move city council, i just have to believe there was another way.

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  3. Agree with ABM.
    The dentist seems to have a knee-jerk reaction sometimes. Like the ordinance that bans idling your car for more than five minutes, or something like that. Has anyone ever been arrested for that one? He says that the sidewalk-sitting ordinance is for public safety. But we all know what it is really all about.

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  4. dmorris
    What you need to realize is that the commissioner of public safety is a politician, and the police are something different altogether…..enforcers. Unfortunately, the police must enforce the laws/ordinances that politics dictate.

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  5. Here is the funny thing, it does not ban sitting of lying on the grass just sidewalk. This means that the homeless have free rain to sleep in the parks and any grassy area.

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  6. If the law is really about tripping hazards the public safety commissioner should have his police do a survey of the sidewalks in and around town and force the owners to repair the sidewalks in front of their properties. Skip has a sidewalk crew that can do this work and bill the owner if he does not want to do the work.

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