The proposed changes include more strict rules on loitering and limiting where people who are homeless can stay overnight.
In this Feb. 9, 2015, file photo, the corner of Center and Main streets is seen in downtown Old Town. Credit: Gabor Degre / BDN

OLD TOWN, Maine — Old Town City Council will consider bans on loitering and rules that limit when and where people who are homeless can stay overnight in the city.

City councilors will meet at 6 p.m. Monday to discuss changes to a city ordinance. The public will have a chance to weigh in during hearings.

One proposed change would mean a person cannot occupy a public park from sunset to sunrise. Currently, the city’s ordinance outlines the same rule, but from 10 p.m. to 6 a.m.

The other proposed changes involve adding language that places restrictions on loitering. If adopted, part of the new language would read: “No person shall obstruct a street, sidewalk, or other public right-of-way: by sitting, lying, or sleeping, or by storing, using, maintaining, or placing personal property, in a manner that impedes passage.”

Old Town is the latest community considering such restrictions, though decisions have come up in other parts of the state. In late 2022, Lewiston approved a ban on loitering and other activities in public parks between 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. While advocates for Maine’s homeless population see the regulations as criminalizing homelessness, city officials around the state have argued that the decisions are more about safety.

Scott Wilcox, Old Town’s public safety director, recommended ordinance changes to the council during a special meeting March 20.

Also related to loitering, the new language bans people from sitting, lying, sleeping and storing their belongings within 5 feet or any operational building entrance or exit and within 10 feet of any operational driveway or loading dock.

People are also restricted from these actions within 2 feet of any fire hydrant, fire plug or other fire department connection.

There are also proposed restrictions against obstructing streets, bicycle paths and lanes and other public rights of way. For instance, people cannot occupy a space that “unreasonably interferes with the use of the right-of-way for any activity for which the City has issued a permit,” according to the proposed language.

The council is not expected to approve the changes Monday, but it may schedule a second reading and approval for April 18.