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Thu, May 23

New policy could force disruptive people from plaza

New rules are intended to help assure that lawful gatherings and events at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza stay peaceful. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

New rules are intended to help assure that lawful gatherings and events at the Yavapai County Courthouse Plaza stay peaceful. (Les Stukenberg/The Daily Courier)

PRESCOTT - A policy to ban disruptive people from the courthouse plaza tops the agenda for the Yavapai County Board of Supervisors' next meeting.

The board will consider major revisions to the county courthouse plaza rules 9 a.m. Monday at the board hearing room at 1015 Fair St. in Prescott.

An update to the 2002 plaza ordinance has been in the works for a long time, County Administrator Phil Bourdon said.

The plaza is probably the most popular gathering spot in the county.

It's not uncommon to find religious solicitors and war protesters intermingling with dog-walkers and Frisbee players.

The existing ordinance doesn't grant specific authority to ban people from the plaza for causing repeated problems, said Yavapai County Superior Court Deputy Court Administrator Shelly Bacon, who works with the plaza security officers.

The draft ordinance states that people who engage in "disorderly, unsanitary or disruptive behavior" can be banned from the plaza for 30 days to a year. They can appeal the written order to the county facilities director.

Prohibited actions include fighting, violent or disruptive behavior, unreasonable noise, abusive or offensive language or gestures that are likely to provoke physical retaliation, protracted commotion and actions intended to prevent lawful meetings, gatherings or processions.

People who have been evicted in the past tend to be intoxicated and disorderly, Bacon said.

Prescott police typically respond to calls on the plaza about once a week, Prescott Police Department spokesman Lt. Ken Morley said. They often relate to situations such as suspicious activities, public intoxication, loud and disruptive behavior or people protesting against government actions.

Other major changes to the plaza ordinance include the addition of a definition of "solicitation." It makes it illegal to solicit money or other things of value, and it makes it illegal to "solicit the sale of goods or services in an aggressive manner."

The draft ordinance requires people to clean up pet waste and allows the county to ban pets from "certain areas" in the interest of public health and safety.

And it bans loud noises that become enough of a nuisance to disturb people in the park. A common culprit on this front is motorcycle riders who repeatedly rev their engines when it's not necessary.

Other additions to the proposed ordinance point out that the erection of signs, disruption of events, camping, fires, using bikes and skateboards, littering, weapons, fireworks and vandalism are prohibited.

Vandalism includes the removal or disturbance of buildings, signs, markers, trees, shrubs, fruit, flowers or any object of archaeological, geological or historical significance.

It's not uncommon to see people trying to dig up historical objects with the help of metal detectors on the plaza and other parks, and this ordinance would make it illegal to take such objects.

The draft incorporates comments from Prescott officials since the courthouse plaza is located in downtown Prescott.

It takes care to comply with the U.S. Constitution, said Jack Fields, Board of Supervisors Attorney.

The full agenda and backup materials, including the proposed plaza ordinance, are online at Click on "BOS meetings" then "Meetings 2007-present."

Follow Joanna Dodder on Twitter @joannadodder.


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