In wake of panhandling vote, council looks at controlling medians

Two months after declining to impose restrictions on panhandling, the Grand Junction City Council will consider an ordinance making it illegal for anyone to be in a city median for any reason unless that person is crossing the street.

A council subcommittee crafted the ordinance, which is expected to be taken up by council members next month.

The board on June 29 rejected two ordinances that would have prohibited aggressive solicitation and solicitation in a median or 50 feet from a controlled intersection.

Council members said the ordinances were too broad and sent them back to staff for revisions.

On Monday, City Attorney John Shaver told the council the median ordinance is intended to protect pedestrians and motorists alike and prevent people from hanging out in those areas, regardless of why they’re there.

“It’s very consistent,” Shaver said. “It’s not singular to any one area of our community.”

Under the ordinance, a median is defined as “any island or street divider, including but not limited to areas that are landscaped, painted or otherwise constructed, that separate traffic for vehicular travel into opposite or different directions.”

A couple of medians that have drawn police attention because of panhandler activity and would fall under the ordinance are First Street and Grand Avenue and the entrance to Rimrock Marketplace.

Shaver said a first offense would likely draw a fine of between $50 and $100, which he said is similar to the punishment for jaywalking.

Councilwoman Teresa Coons said the original panhandling ordinances were directed at too many issues and risked entanglement with free-speech issues. She said the median ordinance deals with the primary concern of safety.

“I think this address the concerns I had with the original ordinance,” Coons said. “It’s to the point. I would like to see it move forward.”

Council members Gregg Palmer and Bonnie Beckstein said they would still like to see the city pursue an ordinance outlawing panhandling.

“There’s still an opportunity to address an issue the community feels is a concern,” Palmer said.


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