July 28, 2010
A new law will be proposed at Monday's Charlottesville City Council meeting to add more restrictions to panhandling on the Downtown Mall. If passed, citizens will not be allowed to ask for money within 50 feet of a mall crossing. Also, asking for money from anyone at a vendor table or cart will not be allowed.
Charlottesville business leaders say preventing panhandling along the cross streets, like Second and Fourth Street, is about safety.
"When you start mixing vehicles and pedestrians, it's a situation you want to be very cautious about. Then, when you start mixing in panhandlers, who are trying to get the attention of the drivers, you just add to the confusion," said Bob Stroh, of the Downtown Business Association.
Stroh continues to work with the City to address problems that have reached a fever pitch in recent months, problems like panhandlers asking for money from people dining outside on the mall.
While everyone involved with the decision agrees that people have the constitutional right to panhandle, officials say there need to be boundaries.
"We'd like everybody to be comfortable, because there are ways to exercise your rights and not intimidate and not make anybody uncomfortable," said Stroh.
Other previously established rules will remain in place. Panhandlers must be 15 feet from an ATM or bank, and aggressive behavior is not tolerated.
City Council will have the first of two discussions on the proposed panhandling legislation changes on Monday, hoping to respect individual rights while making the Downtown Mall a more enjoyable place to visit.