The Colorado Springs City Council voted 8-to-1 Tuesday to ban panhandling downtown.
City Attorney Chris Melcher redrafted the ordinance after requests from Councilors to include Acacia Park and the sidewalk in front of the library on Cascade Avenue. Those areas were originally omitted from the zone because Melcher worried they would be considered public forums.
Asking for money is generally considered protected speech under the First Amendment.
Melcher said the law had to strike a balance between protecting free speech rights and accomplishing the goal of limiting panhandling in the downtown zone. The key, he told council, is to narrowly define the zone.
The zone is about 12 square blocks, bordered by Boulder Street on the north, Cucharras Street on the south and Cascade and Nevada avenues on the west and east.
“The downtown retailers and restaurants are suffering,” Mayor Steve Bach said to Council. “And they’re very worried they’re going to lose this holiday shopping and dining season if we don’t do something.”
In addition to banning all panhandling downtown, council amended the aggressive panhandling ordinance to extend the panhandling-free space outside of a building from six feet to 20 feet and to include all state highways.
Council member Val Snider voted against the measures. The ordinances will come up for a second reading Nov. 27 and if passed, the police department can begin enforcing the new laws Dec. 2.