The Fort worth City Council, during their first meeting of 2017, voted for stricter enforcement against those considered to be panhandling aggressively. pmoseley@star-telegram.com
The Fort worth City Council, during their first meeting of 2017, voted for stricter enforcement against those considered to be panhandling aggressively. pmoseley@star-telegram.com

Fort Worth

Council decides against ticketing those giving to panhandlers

January 24, 2017 08:11 PM

UPDATED January 25, 2017 03:53 PM

FORT WORTH

District 4 Councilman Cary Moon changed course Tuesday night and withdrew his request that city staff add a provision to the city’s panhandling ordinance that would make it illegal to give money to panhandlers.

Moon said the change came after he was told there is no legal foundation to support such a provision. Instead, Moon encouraged people to give to social services and programs that help the homeless.

The proposal to outlaw giving to panhandlers had sparked local controversy, with some residents calling radio talk shows to say council members shouldn’t attempt to regulate what people can or can’t do with their own money.

The council did vote 9-0 to change language in the ordinance that allows stricter enforcement against those considered to be panhandling aggressively.

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Councilwoman Gyna Bivens, who also sought a stricter panhandling ordinance, said she has constituents who do not want people to be ticketed for giving.

“Like Cary, I don’t want to interfere with that, we just want people to be safe. There is a difference between homelessness and panhandling, they are not to be confused.”

The council has been addressing cracking down on panhandling for about year.

Under the new provision, a beggar or panhandler becomes aggressive when they use violent or threatening gestures and continue to solicit a person when they’ve already been told no. The beggar or panhandler also cannot touch or block a pedestrian, among other things, the ordinance says.

The new ordinance also sets distance guidelines for when a solicitation becomes an offense. For example, a person can’t beg or panhandle within 20 feet at such places as an automated teller machine, at a parking meter or the entrance to a restaurant, or within 50 feet of a public or private school.

In other action, the council voted 8-1 to approve the development of a six-story, 138-room boutique hotel-condo development at 1205-1217 S. Henderson St., at Magnolia Avenue. Councilman Jungus Jordan said he opposed the zoning request until a traffic study is done.

Proponents said the hotel is much needed and fulfills development goals of the near south side. They called the $55 million project, which will create 160 jobs and millions of dollars in hotel occupancy tax revenue, well-designed and of high quality. Historic Fort Worth said it supported the project.

“This very well-thought-out design is exactly what we need in the neighborhood,” said Jill Black, a residential developer in the neighborhood. “It will enhance activities in the area.”

Dozens of residents, some who live in the nearby Fairmount and Ryan neighborhoods, said the hotel would bring too much traffic and noise and will destroy the unique character of the near south side.

“The size of the hotel does not fit in,” said John Fitzgerald, a Ryan Place resident.

Teresa Stewart, a Fort Worth resident, said developing the hotel is like fitting a 10-pound bag of sugar in a 5-pound site.

The developer, local real estate investor Mike Dolabi and San Diego-based Bond Partners, sought variances that would allow for a parking garage and valet parking.