BIDDEFORD — The Policy Committee voted unanimously Monday night in support of a proposed city ordinance that would ban anyone – including panhandlers – from standing in medians.
The committee failed to move forward on a separate ordinance that would have prohibited aggressive solicitation, including following people to ask them for money.
The committee’s recommendation will be forwarded to the City Council for consideration.
The city joins a growing number of communities across the state and country to consider policies aimed at keeping panhandlers off street medians. Portland last month enacted a ban and officials report panhandlers have voluntarily complied by moving off medians and onto sidewalks. Lewiston city councilors will vote on a similar measure on Sept. 17.
Under the proposed Biddeford ordinance, no one would be allowed to stay in a traffic median except while actively crossing the street. City officials say they are concerned about the safety of both people in medians and drivers who could become distracted by their presence.
City Councilor Bob Mills, chairman of the Policy Committee, said the committee didn’t support the aggressive solicitation ordinance because the majority of members felt existing state law is sufficient to address the issue.