Stow Council approves rules governing roadside solicitations

By Jeff Saunders | Stow Sentry Published:

Stow has not abolished soliciting for money, but it has laid out how it expects people who do so to behave.

By a vote of 6-1, City Council approved an ordinance providing rules under which such solicitations can take place.

"It basically addresses safety issues," Mayor Sara Drew said.

She said the action is in response to concerns and complaints city officials have received regarding people who are seeking handouts along city streets.

Police Lt. Jeff Film said that, going back to October, there have been some misdemeanor charges filed against individuals.

"We've been dealing with several of the same people since late 2013," Film said.

He said this has included several disorderly conduct charges related to solicitors arguing with each other, a few criminal trespassing charges involving solicitors who went onto a business' property after previously being told not to and an assault involving two solicitors.

Drew said that what the legislation will not do is ban the practice, provide controls over what signs can say or require solicitors to receive permits from the city because this could be deemed in violation of First Amendment rights of free speech and assembly.

Law Director Amber Zibritosky told council that the ordinance is based on an extensive review of court cases that addressed such ordinances in other communities.

"This was carefully drawn up based on cases that have been upheld," she said.

Councilman Bob Adaska, the lone "no" vote, said he believes the legislation will negatively impact student groups conducting fundraisers.

"It will limit or prevent our youth from using street corners to do car washes," said Adaska.

Zibritosky said the ordinance is meant to prohibit such conduct as aggressive behavior and trespassing, something that youth groups are not usually guilty of.

Andy and Karen Bellian, who own StowNut Donuts and Diner at Graham and Fishcreek roads, said they have unsuccessfully offered jobs to panhandlers outside their business. They also said they have seen aggressive behavior.

"Some of the attitudes these people have, it's getting worse," Paul Bellian said.

"There was one little old lady, she was so scared, that's when I called the police," said Karen Bellian.

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