Spotsylvania County is looking for a new way to deal with panhandlers.
The Board of Supervisors will hold a public hearing Tuesday night on a proposal to repeal one ordinance and replace it with others aiming to restrict activities on county roads and medians.
Existing code restricts panhandling activities, but constitutional concerns prompted the county to pursue a change in the ordinance, according to a staff report.
In some areas of the country, similar codes and laws aimed at panhandling have been found to be a violation of the First Amendment, continuing a trend that started in 2015 after a U.S. Supreme Court decision made it more difficult to pass laws on free speech, according to news reports.
In a report, county staff cited a 2015 Fourth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals judgement against a similar “highway solicitation ordinance” in Henrico County.
Spotsylvania has options to replace the ordinance, which will be addressed during the public hearing.
Supervisor David Ross said in an email that he is “specifically targeting” panhandlers at the Spotsylvania Towne Centre and Bragg Road intersections on State Route 3, as well as the Southpoint Parkway intersection on U.S. 1 in Massaponax.
The staff report states the county can replace the code with existing traffic citations, and recommends installing No Loitering signs. The penalties for such violations would be similar to those under existing code.
The Virginia Department of Transportation would have to approve the signs.
The board meeting starts at 4:30 p.m., but the public hearing will be held after 6:30 p.m.