City officials continue discussing panhandling ordinance


metro

Mount Pleasant city commissioners continued discussing an ordinance that places restrictions on panhandling during tonight's work session.

The ordinance, which was passed in December, prohibits solicitation within 50 feet of intersections, ATMs and other businesses. After beginning his term on the commission in January, Nick Madaj asked city staff to take another look at the ordinance.

If found in violation of the ordinance, it qualifies as a misdemeanor. 

While it is still an official ordinance, it is not currently being enforced. Commissioners are working on rewording parts of it, specifically those that have to do with sign display regulations and time, place and manner restrictions.

Tonight, commissioners decided to change the solicitation distance to 40 feet, to be voted on at an upcoming meeting.

The purpose of the ordinance, said Mayor Kathy Ling, is public safety. Commissioners expressed concerns about distractions of drivers at intersections. 

However, City Attorney Scott Smith said he hasn't heard of any accidents caused because of drivers being distracted by people holding signs on the side of the road. He is aware of people who have been injured by reaching into traffic to accept donations. 

Ling said 50 feet is too far from intersections, if the ordinance is based on public safety. 

"Just having people walk up and down the street is not a safety issue," she said. "It might be annoying, but we can't pass laws on being annoyed." 

The next Mount Pleasant City Commission meeting is on April 11. 

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Sydney Smith is a super-senior at Central Michigan University. She comes from metro Detroit ...

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