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Unruly transients irk stores’ owners

Nevada City must act to curb unruly transients who inhabit a trail near two prominent businesses, scaring customers and workers, according to the owners.

Some transients in an area between The Stonehouse Restaurant and The Red Castle Inn yell at customers, pick through the trash bin, drink beer and hard liquor, urinate in bushes and loiter on or near the businesses, they said at Wednesday night’s Nevada City council meeting.

The business owners want the city to enforce a night-time curfew – as do some nearby residents.



The City Council will meet in two weeks to consider possible enforcement actions in the long-simmering problem, including a night-time curfew.

“They are people lurking out of the darkness, threatening and panhandling our guests,” said John Vodonick, co-owner of the Stonehouse Restaurant.




The Stonehouse Restaurant has a security light that has been destroyed several times by the transients who don’t want to be seen, Vodonick said.

“We’ve spent over $1,000 to maintain our security light,” Vodonick said.

The Red Castle management expressed similar concerns.

“They camp on verandahs of the guest rooms and play guitars,” said Conley Weaver, owner of the Red Castle and a former Nevada City mayor.

The Union published an article quoting residents who expressed similar concerns in April.

Police Chief Lou Trovato told the business owners his hands are mostly tied unless officers receive specific complaints.

“If I had more people, I’d be there more often,” Trovato said.

But Trovato and Mayor Steve Cottrell said concerns exist about who owns the land in the forested area between the two businesses.

“Any private property notice has to be posted so that a reasonable person would know,” Trovato said.

The owners want the city to strictly enforce a dusk to dawn curfew on anyone walking the trails, but the city only has a 10- foot easement on the trail between the businesses.

A one-year-old federal court decision allows transients to “sit, stand and sleep on public property” in communities that don’t provide adequate homeless shelters, Cottrell said.

“I don’t think you can stop people from walking down a sidewalk,” Cottrell said. “As long as they left by the morning, you’re fine.”

Business owners weren’t satisfied.

“Then you might as well tear (the park curfew) up and stop being concerned about public safety,” Vodonick said. “This is an incremental step. All we ask is that (the trails) be closed during hazardous night hours.”

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To contact Staff Writer Greg Moberly, e-mail gregm@theunion.com or call 477-4234.


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