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Feb 14, 2013 2:18 AM by Andy Koen

Solicitation ban allowed under 20 foot rule exemption

COLORADO SPRINGS - Every door of every home and business in Colorado Springs now serves as a legal yard stick. On Wednesday, US District Court Judge Marsha Krieger affirmed the city's 20 foot solicitation boundary from the entryways of private buildings and residences within the city limits.

The restriction was part of an ordinance passed by city council last year under the broader downtown no solicitation zone. The American Civil Liberties Union sued the city on the grounds that the law violated free speech.

In December, Judge Krieger issued a preliminary injunction on behalf of the ACLU effectively halting the law from taking effect pending the outcome of the suit.

News 5 did a little measuring downtown and found that along Tejon Street the ban still leaves a small area on sidewalk with room for a sandwich board open for soliciting. 

However, on E. Bijou Street the sidewalks are only 15 feet six inches wide. Additionally, many of the store fronts are separated by only 10 to 12 feet. So, the 20 foot rule effectively pushes all panhandlers to the street corners.

Colorado Springs Police Chief Pete Carey called the decision a good compromise.

"This is the city's best effort to make people feel like they're safe when they're coming or going from buildings," Carey said.

He says his officers won't be pulling their tape measures and ticket books out just yet.

"You'll be warned the first time," Carey said. " If it happens again you will get served and released on summons."

City leaders still are considering whether to keep up the fight in court, or to simply ask Council to rewrite the ordinance to reflect the gains they've already won.

Soliciting bans at entryways aren't new. The previous city code stopped solicitors six feet from the door. The distance was extended to 20 feet under the newer ordinance.

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