Palm Beach to take final vote on repeating panhandling ordinance; new laws to be reviewed

A man is seen panhandling on the northbound Interstate 95 off-ramp at 10th Avenue North in Lake Worth Beach in this 2022 file photo.  That city repeated a panhandling ordinance, and Palm Beach will hold a final vote Tuesday to repeal its own.

A man is seen panhandling on the northbound Interstate 95 off-ramp at 10th Avenue North in Lake Worth Beach in this 2022 file photo. That city repeated a panhandling ordinance, and Palm Beach will hold a final vote Tuesday to repeal its own.

The Town Council will hold a final vote Tuesday on repealing a town rule that bans solicitation from public streets and sidewalks.

Concerned about potential free speech violations, council members voted unanimously on first reading last month to repeal the rule. Tuesday’s vote is scheduled to take place near the end of the council’s regular meeting at Town Hall.

In a memo to the council last month, Town Attorney Skip Randolph said similar rules have been overturned recently by courts, with judges finding the rules “are unconstitutional as they are not narrowly tailored to further a compelling government interest.”

Brett Lashley, an associate attorney who works with Randolph at Jones Foster law firm, concurred with that in his own memo. “The Town’s Solicitation Ordinance as currently drafted is likely an unlawful restraint on protected speech,” he wrote.

Randolph told council members last month that he would return to them with a proposed ordinance that is constitutional and “narrowly tailored to address this problem.”

“This one is directed too much toward homeless persons, etc.,” he said.

The new ordinance will be presented to council members Tuesday for discussion and an initial vote.

It states: “It shall be unlawful for any person to stand in the portion of the public right of way adjacent to a paved roadway or on the paved roadway for vehicular traffic or any public sidewalk of the Town for any purpose which is intended to or actually interrupts the normal flow of vehicular or pedestrian traffic on said public right of way, roadway or public sidewalk or for the purpose of inviting or enticing a person to enter a commercial establishment adjacent to said right of way, street or sidewalk.”

In his memo last month, Lashley pointed to a lawsuit filed in June of last year against the city of Lake Worth Beach by four unhoused people, challenging two of the city’s laws governing panhandling and right-of-way use. The plaintiffs filed a motion asking the court to stop Lake Worth Beach from enforcing the pair of laws.

Before the judge could rule on the move, the city repeated the ordinances and settled with the plaintiffs, Lashley said.

In a similar case in West Palm Beach, three homeless people sued the city to overturn similar rules to those in the Lake Worth Beach case. Again, before the court could rule on the issues in the case, the city repeated the ordinances and settled, Lashley said.

If the council approves the new ordinance on first reading Tuesday, it will come back in July for final approval.

Also Tuesday, the council will:

  • Hear a presentation on the town-wide underground project.

  • Consider a request from the Preservation Foundation of Palm Beach for the town to contribute to infrastructure-related improvements at Phipps Ocean Park.

  • Hear a presentation by the Palm Beach County Commission on Ethics.

  • Review Code Enforcement Board referrals for Bricktops restaurant and Trevini restaurant.

Council members will meet Tuesday at 9:30 am at Town Hall, and also at 9:30 am Wednesday for development review. Members of the public can participate in person or via Zoom webinars. Those wishing to make comments public can virtually access the Zoom link on the town’s Meeting Audio page.

Jodie Wagner is a journalist at the Palm Beach Daily News, part of the USA TODAY Florida Network. You can reach her at [email protected]. Help support our journalism. Subscribe today.

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Palm Beach to take final vote on repealing panhandling law

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