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Ordinance against living in cars considered

November 30, 1999|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN ? It could become cheaper to stay in a hotel room than to live in your car.

The Hagerstown City Council on Tuesday discussed passing an ordinance that would allow the city to fine people up to $250 for living in a vehicle if it's parked on public property, including alleys, streets and parking lots.

The penalty also could carry up to a 60-day jail sentence.

Police Chief Arthur Smith said several business owners in the area of the Washington County Board of Education on Commonwealth Avenue recently started to complain about people living in vehicles.

He said responding to the calls is taking up too much of the police department's time, and enforcement is impossible because the city doesn't have an ordinance on the books that covers issues of this nature.

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Councilwoman Kelly S. Cromer said she wanted to make sure, for example, that people who park a recreational vehicle on a public street in Hagerstown while visiting their relatives wouldn't get fined.

Smith told her they would if the RV was parked there for more than a week, but the ordinance wouldn't apply to people who park their recreational vehicles in designated lots.

The council instructed Smith to make sure the ordinance said "living" in a vehicle rather than "sleeping" in one. This would ensure motorists wouldn't be cited if they were waiting on someone and innocently fell asleep.

City Attorney Mark Boyer agreed to revise the ordinance so the council could discuss it further.

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