Drivers along Route 7 and other busy roadways in Loudoun County should now be relieved of what some consider a nuisance and the Board of Supervisors determined was a threat to public safety.
Despite opposition from the Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) and its advocates, the board voted unanimously March 13 to implement a ban on roadside panhandlers, deeming it too severe of a safety risk.
Local company's “Fill the Boot” campaign to raise money for the MDA has largely utilized roadside soliciting to collect more than $800,000 in the past decade; money, said speakers suffering from muscular dystrophy, that significantly helps families and individuals suffering from the disease.
“The Muscular Dystrophy Association saved my family and I,” Frank Lombardi of Leesburg said to the supervisors. “ … The monies that are raised here helps people like me, helps out kids ...”
Maddie Stewart, the regional director for MDA, said the ban will have a devastating effect on the “Fill the Boot” fundraising.
“Intersection collections collect at least four times more than store fronts,” Stewart said quoting data her organization collected. “So it's realistic to predict this could result in at least $70,000 to $75,000 [per year].”
Stewart urged the board to consider a restrictive ban, meaning organizations would have to apply for the ability to panhandle. County Attorney Jack Roberts said such a measure is suspect and could open up the county to litigation.
Incorporated towns in Loudoun County will not have to adhere to the regulation unless the individual town has implemented a similar prohibition.
Supervisor Shawn Williams (R-Broad Run), while empathizing with Stewart, said it's a “pressing safety issue” with citizens and firefighters raising money along congested and high-speed roadways.
Williams and other supervisors said they will assist the MDA with finding locations and raising money to make sure the organization is successful in its fundraising efforts.
“This is a difficult issue for the board in that we're just getting so many complaints from constituents,” said Supervisor Ralph Buona (R-Ashburn), pointing out concerns with safety, illegitimate fundraising and the aggressiveness of some solicitors.
Supervisors pointed out that allowing solicitation opens up opportunity for frauds to collect money for reasons other than what they're advertising.
Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio (R-Sterling) noted that more than 900 people in Loudoun had signed a petition calling for the ban.
“I look forward to a safer drive around Sterling within a few weeks and am delighted that this improvement will have dramatic impact on Sterling's quality of life,” Delgaudio said in an email.