Home Zoning compliance for Waynesboro B Street homeless encampment ‘will take time’

Zoning compliance for Waynesboro B Street homeless encampment ‘will take time’

Crystal Graham
b street homeless encampment waynesboro
B Street homeless encampment, image submitted by Pamela Mitchell

There’s no easy way for the City of Waynesboro to deal with a homeless encampment on B Street. On one hand, if the unsheltered population there are forced to leave due to improper zoning, there aren’t a lot of options for where they can go. On the other hand, you have a resident who feels she is a prisoner in her own home and feels current conditions are not safe for her family.

The land owner, Linco, Inc., a commercial grading company based in Waynesboro, reportedly served trespassing orders to the unhoused population camping out on his property after complaints by a nearby resident that the situation was unsafe.

However, owner Jim Critzer later communicated with AFP that he had “compassion” for the homeless living there – and said he might let them stay.

A porta potty has been added to the land to eliminate one issue, public urination, but it doesn’t address other issues brought up by resident Pam Mitchell in multiple stories in Augusta Free Press. Additional problems are safety, traffic noise, fighting, trespassing and alleged theft.

Mitchell said she called the Waynesboro Police Department in March due to fighting on the property but said she was sure “they will do nothing.” She said she has a sick child who has been in and out of the hospital, however this continues to wear on her and her family.

To her knowledge, no one in the encampment has faced charges related to her complaints.

While Mitchell said she has made numerous complaints and is clearly frustrated with the city, the police department and the owner, the land is private property, and she’s been told that limits what can be done. For example, if it was public property, the homeless people set up there could be forced to leave.

Waynesboro City Manager Mike Hamp replied to AFP Thursday night that zoning compliance “will take time.”

In a previous conversation with AFP, Hamp said the private property is zoned RG-5, or residential.

“The zoning does not allow full-time camping,” Hamp said at the time.

Hamp said tonight that the city has met with the property owner to gather information and has also asked for input from “an outreach worker from Valley Community Services Board who has frequent contact with the unsheltered community.”

The city is also taking a look at the bigger issue, according to Hamp, “researching and identifying possible ordinance changes that may remove unintended barriers for the non-profit/church community.”

Changes, Hamp said, that may allow the organizations to provide additional services to the homeless population in Waynesboro beyond what is currently available.

“The city’s approach to zoning violations is one of voluntary compliance,” Hamp said. “The city recognizes that unlike most zoning violations, this one involves unhoused individuals.

“The city is committed to working towards zoning compliance from a multi-pronged approach that will take time,” Hamp told AFP.

Waynesboro had a day shelter for the homeless; it was shut down due to zoning

Homeless encampment on B Street in Waynesboro remains open – for now

Time’s up: Ten days pass, homeless remain at B Street encampment in Waynesboro

Evicted again: Police assisting B Street landowner with ‘trespass enforcement’ of homeless

Property owner responds: Has ‘compassion’ for homeless, will allow them to stay on land

Resident: Tent City evictees land at B Street encampment, ‘unsafe’ for children

Waynesboro homeowner says B Street homeless encampment ‘not safe’

Crystal Graham

Crystal Graham

Crystal Abbe Graham is the regional editor of Augusta Free Press. A 1999 graduate of Virginia Tech, she has worked for nearly 25 years as a reporter and editor for several Virginia publications, written a book, and garnered more than a dozen Virginia Press Association awards for writing and graphic design. She was the co-host of "Viewpoints," a weekly TV news show, and co-host of Virginia Tonight, a nightly TV news show. Her work on "Virginia Tonight" earned her a national Telly award for excellence in television.