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Occupy Iowa City: City Council agrees to bigger tents in College Green

BY ASMAA ELKEURTI | NOVEMBER 02, 2011 7:20 AM

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Iowa City city councilors have agreed to compromise with Occupy protesters on one aspect of their permit restrictions.

After hours of discussion between the two groups during Tuesday's public hearing, councilors agreed to modify the permit to allow up to two Arctic tents that hold 10 people, subject to approval to ensure compliance with fire codes.

One concern voiced by councilors was the issue of consistency with potential future incidents.

"It is our job to provide basic parameters to any group," said Mayor Matt Hayek. "What I'm sensing is an interest in looking at this tent issue, perhaps we expand the permit on that one issue. I don't see a compelling reason to change that."

The permit Occupy Iowa City received on Oct. 26 included tent-occupancy restrictions that were not a part of the original permit protesters signed.

The issued permit stated no more than six-person tents were allowed on the green, which protesters stated would be difficult when colder weather approached.

"What we're going to fight is the six-man tent limitations," said Occupy representative Tom Hudson, noting that space heaters would be dangerous in smaller tents. "Winter's going to come up, and we have to do something to stay warm."

But some city councilors felt a bigger Arctic tent, which was proposed by occupiers, could breach the category of a permanent structure.

"A permanent structure, a larger tent — what's the distinction?" said Councilor Regenia Bailey. "If, for example, we went down the road of winter camping and larger, tents what is the distinction between that and a permanent structure?"

Protesters were also at odds with the removed renewal clause; the permit occupants applied for stated that the permit could be renewed at the end of the initial four months.

The delivered permit, however, states that protesters will have to reapply for a permit in February.

No changes were made to issues of permit renewal at the meeting.

Hudson believes this will be an issue for protesters, because their presence at College Green Park will extend past the four months.

"I fully anticipate us to still be here Feb. 26," Hudson said. "It's a huge concern because with a renewal, it's a pretty automatically updated thing. Applying for another permit could provide us with a whole new permit with new restrictions and regulations."

Though not all issues with the permit were addressed during Tuesday's public hearing, councilors and occupiers agreed they needed to continue communication.

"I would like to see the movement and the city continue on in productive dialogue," Hayek said.


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