City officials: Occupy permit renewal denied for safety reasons


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Iowa City Occupiers will soon have to pack up their belongings and head out of College Green Park — city officials have denied their request for a permit renewal.

The city of Iowa City denied the permit — requested on Feb. 6 — on Monday. City officials say there has been an increase in the number of police calls at College Green since the beginning of the protest, factoring into the city's decision. Iowa City police did not return calls to The Daily Iowan for comment.

City Manager Tom Markus said Iowa City police received 55 calls regarding College Green Park since October 2011. The department only received two calls to the area in all of 2010.

Community members also said they wanted the park back for community use.

"I have been sympathetic with the movement, but I am concerned at this point how effective it is," said community member Kevin Burford, who lives across the street from the park. "The city has been very tolerant and understanding, and I think [denying the permit] is the appropriate decision."

The current permit — filed in October — will expire Feb. 29. Occupiers will be required to remove all property from the park no later than midnight the following day.

The Occupy movement's presence also caused significant damage to the turf at the park, resulting in the temporary closure of the occupied areas for approximately 30 to 60 days so the city can make appropriate repairs, according to the letter.

The city estimates spending $2,280 on the repairs and will tentatively begin repairs March 1, weather permitting.

Occupiers said they would not provide comment to any media until after their general-assembly meeting on Thursday, according to a post on their Facebook page.

Markus said the group members have a right to file a written notice of appeal with the city clerk within five business days. If they do not appeal the denial, he said, the decision will stand.

During the occupation of the park, city officials said health, safety, and sanitation concerns were expressed by community members.

"[The park] is not set up for permanent living conditions, and the issues go to that," Markus said.

Many members have left the park since the Iowa City movement's start in October, and only one man was seen at College Green Park as of Monday evening.

Johnson County health officials said the city will express greater concern when it deals with the community's well-being.

"The city will have some usually stricter regulations on sanitation," said Director of Public Health Doug Beardsley. "Anytime you have a public area and they are being exposed, that is a concern."

Markus said he believes the Occupiers will cooperate with the denial of permit if they do not decide to appeal it.

"We will deal with that at the time [if it happens]," he said. "The Occupiers early on were willing to listen and work with the city, and we would hope they would understand that the community does have a desire to get the park back."

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