- Published on Tuesday, 28 August 2012 22:37
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Bryan and Vickie Coffman, owners of High Tides Restaurant located at 205 Taylor St. on the boardwalk, spoke at the Colonial Beach committee meeting requesting a no loitering ordinance be put in place by next summer.
Vicky Coffman told council members that they spend thousands of dollars on advertisement to bring customers and entertainment to Colonial Beach. Coffman’s main complaint is loitering on the boardwalk from Colonial Ave. to the tourism building.
Coffman claimed that police have been unable to deal with the problem because they have no legal recourse to force people to move on and council deliberated for roughly 20 minutes with some members of council saying there is a need for loitering laws.
However the Colonial Beach Town Code already has laws concerning loitering.
Coffman’s concern is two-fold; a safety issue as well as an economic issue.
Coffman referenced big holidays such as the 4th of July saying crowds gather outside the establishment on the boardwalk and loiter. She feels this is a safety issue and said customers have expressed feeling intimidated by crowds loitering near the entrance.
“We’re trying very hard to bring revenue into the town, so we’re spending and going way above what we normally do to bring in top notch entertainment, and I have people who are paying covers to come in to watch this entertainment from all over,” Coffman said, “I’ve had over 250 people inside the fence who paid for the cover and 150 people outside the fence standing all along the boardwalk which is a safety issue as well.
“Number one we have a mentality in our town that everything is for free and it’s not. And this really needs to stop because it’s not doing any good for the town having those people on the other side of the fence watching a concert when we have a group that did pay to get in. Cause we’re not making any revenue on the outside of the fence. We’re only making revenue on the inside of the fence.
“That’s one of the issues, the other issue is safety. If you have a gang of people that are down on the boardwalk and they’re hanging out, you’ll have people stand there and dare you to walk up, make you go around them.
“I’m not just talking about the boardwalk, because if we move them from the boardwalk they’re going to move to the parking lot or they’re going to move to the empty lots that are in town.”
Coffman brought in ordinances from Colonial Beach, Chesapeake Beach MD and a proposed ordinance that she feels would solve the problem.
Coffman referenced Town Ordinance Sec 5-9: Activities prohibited on public beaches, parks, recreation and parking areas, or other public area within the town.
Under this section b-4 states, “No person shall cause, either directly or indirectly the obstruction of any sidewalk, walkway, or stairway so as to impede the ingress or egress of any public beach, recreation area, park or adjacent area is prohibited.”
This ordinance was one of several, adopted April 8, 2010 to combat problems with overcrowding on the beaches and beach-goers camping overnight on the beach under pretense that they were night fishing.
Coffman said that Colonial Beach Police have been unable to deal with the problem because there is no code in place to enforce no loitering.
However a search of the town’s codes reveals that there are already laws on the books concerning loitering in Colonial Beach.
Town code states the following:
Sec. 17-22. - Obstructing free passage of others. Any person who, in any public place or on any private property open to the public, unreasonably or unnecessarily obstructs the free passage of other persons to and from or within such public place or private property and who shall fail or refuse to cease such obstruction or move on when requested to do so by the owner or lessee or agent or employee of such owner or lessee or by a duly authorized law enforcement officer shall be guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
Sec. 17-22.1. - Loitering. (a) Any person or persons loitering or standing in the street, sidewalk, curb or other public places or on privately owned property open to the public shall move on or separate when required to do so by any member of the police department or sheriff’s department and shall cease to occupy such position on said street, sidewalk, curb or other public place or privately owned property open to the public.
(b) Any person violating this section shall be deemed guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor. (Ord. No. 164, §§ 1, 2)
Furthermore, Sec. 17-23. - Riots and unlawful assemblies deals with any unlawful use by three or more person acting together of force or violence which seriously jeopardizes the public safety, peace or order is a riot.
Colonial Beach depends mostly on revenue from tourism and has suffered a decline over the last 50 years due to the outlaw of gambling which closed pier casinos and more recently the town’s decision to clear old building from properties along the boardwalk in the last decade. The Chesapeake Bay Act makes rebuilding structures close to the river an expensive and administrative endeavor.
The town has been working hard on revitalization to boost tourism.
When it comes to enforcing loitering laws there is a fine line between loitering and tourism. Loitering is defined in the World Book Dictionary; to linger idly: stop and play along the way: ex. to loiter along the street, looking into all the shop windows. To waste time in or about a place. Tourism is defined as the act of traveling or sightseeing.
In a town that depends on tourism and is named the “Playground on the Potomac” it may prove difficult to enforce no loitering laws that restricts visitors and residents from enjoying the town’s biggest tourist attractions; its boardwalk.