New ordinance to ban homeless from camping in downtown Bardstown

Bardstown Mayor Dick Heaton listens to complaints regarding the homeless camping at the Bardstown Farmer’s Market pavilion.

Nelson County Gazette / WBRT Radio

Wednesday, Sept. 13, 2023 — The Bardstown City Council took up the problem of homeless people living on the streets and public areas around downtown Bardstown at the beginning of its meeting Tuesday night.

Restaurant owner Merima Kreso told the council that homeless people living in downtown is a growing problem. She said tourists have come into her restaurant asking to use the restaurant restroom because of homeless people hanging out at the Farmer’s Market make them uncomfortable about using the public restrooms there.

“This is a big problem for the city,” she said.

The owner of a short-term rental property located near the Farmer’s Market said his clients have included their concerns about the number of homeless people in the area in reviews of their stays at his property.

“If there’s a fist fight going on at the Farmer’s Market, [my guests] have to wonder, ‘Where did I come to?’ “

Councilman Joe Buckman said his tenants downtown have reported getting hounded by homeless people downtown.

Councilman Joe Buckman told the council that some of his tenants have been harassed by homeless individuals downtown.

The proposed ordinance would prohibit homeless persons from camping on public property between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m. in the city limits. “Public property” is defined in the ordinance as property owned or leased by the City of Bardstown.

The ordinance also prohibits homeless people from taking residence in abandoned or vacant properties in the city.

The measure will give police an ordinance to enforce to keep the homeless from living on public property.

The ordinance only applies to city-owned and leased property; it would not prohibit the homeless from camping on public property owned by the county in the city limits, City Attorney Audrey Haydon told the council.

In addition to owning the Old Courthouse, the county government also owns the art gallery on the square, the Sutherland Building, and the Nelson County Civic Center.

The county could pass its own ordinance to prohibit the homeless from camping on the county’s property, she explained

Presently, the Farmer’s Market is public property and there are not rules that prohibit anyone from camping there overnight.

When police are called about homeless people camping on public property, they can encourage them to move on, but they cannot force them to leave.

The new ordinance would give police a tool to use to prevent the homeless from taking up temporary residence in public places.

Anyone violating the ordinance would be cited for third-degree criminal trespassing, a misdemeanor.

“This is a first step to try to eliminate homeless camping around downtown,” Mayor Dick Heaton said. Its an issue that’s a problem all across the country, he said.

As it is now, there’s nothing much police can do because you can’t run people off public property, he explained. There’s no ordinance against it.

The ordinance also specifies a 4-hour limit of staying on public property between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. The prohibition on camping is effective from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., Haydon explained.

Bardstown Police Chief Kim Kraeszig said the city has help for people suffering from homelessness. However, not everyone living on the streets wants to accept that help.

“It’s a safety factor,” Kraeszig said. “You can’t put a tent up and camp because it’s not really safe living conditions. It will help people get the resources they need and not live in deplorable conditions.”

If the ordinance is approved, it will require public property to have signage advising people of the prohibition on overnight camping.

Councilman David Dones questioned if the ordinance would push the homeless to start camping out on county-owned property.

The wording of the ordinance is similar to other measures in Mount Washington and Shepherdsville, Haydon told the council.

In other business, the council:

— approved a municipal order regarding vacation time policies for city employees. The policies have not been updated since the early 1990s. Earned time off was also revised to be more competitive with the private sector.

NEXT UP. The second and final reading of the ordinance is expected to take place at the next council meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2023.


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