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Committee outlines more changes to panhandling ordinance

By Emily Adamson, KECI Reporter, eadamson@keci.com
Published On: Jan 23 2014 05:25:53 PM MST
Updated On: Jan 24 2014 10:03:44 AM MST
MISSOULA, Mont. -

Missoula City Council members are pushing forward with proposed changes to the city's panhandling ordinance.

Revisions to the aggressive solicitation law would prohibit soliciting within 10 feet of a public entrance to a commercial building instead of 20 feet.

“It feels very much like, almost like your personal space when you just pop out and you're not expecting it,” said Missoula Mayor John Engen. “The original ordinance amendment was 20 feet; we came back with 10. That gave constituents comfort.”

It's round two of a long list of changes to the laws for pedestrian interference and aggressive solicitation.  Just last month the Missoula City Council updated the ordinances after complaints and safety concerns. But then the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) threatened a lawsuit saying the changes were unconstitutional.

Now council members have proposed a new draft and in it changes that will hopefully decrease the chance of litigation.

“Our efforts in working with the American Civil Liberties Union have been about finding a compromise,” Engen said.

On list for both ordinances -- the distance from entrances where people can lie, sleep or solicit is changed to 10 feet, with the exception of ATMs, which remain at 20 feet. A ban on sitting, sleeping or lying on footbridges or in tunnels was deleted, as were the bans on soliciting after dark, soliciting within a certain distance of a vendor and soliciting from the roadway.

In addition, the new law would apply to the Central Business District (CBD), a zoning area in downtown Missoula.

“It is smaller than the Business Improvement District's geographic boundaries,” Engen said.

But none of the proposed changes adopted by a committee are official until the council hears from the public again and takes a vote.

The public hearing is scheduled for Monday February 10. Click here to read the draft.