“If you’re going to regulate solicitors, you have to regulate them all, and if you’re going to regulate peddlers, then you have to regulate them all … the dilemma is you can’t treat your locals differently than you do anyone else,” said …
When a Powell resident gets a knock on the door, they can pretty easily distinguish between a local Girl Scout selling cookies and a traveling salesman hawking vacuums. But making that distinction under the law is a lot tougher.
Concerned that proposed regulations on door-to-door sales would also burden local nonprofit groups, the Powell City Council voted unanimously last week to table an ordinance dealing with solicitors, peddlers and transient merchants.
“If you’re going to regulate solicitors, you have to regulate them all, and if you’re going to regulate peddlers, then you have to regulate them all … the dilemma is you can’t treat your locals differently than you do anyone else,” said Sandra Kitchen, city attorney.
Under the proposed ordinance, all solicitors would have to register with the city; peddlers and transient merchants would be required to have a license ($35 for 90 days or $140 annually).
A peddler goes door-to-door and delivers the merchandise then and there, while a solicitor only takes orders and the product is delivered later. A transient merchant, meanwhile, temporarily sets up shop, but does not stay in the area for more than 90 days.
Councilman Don Hillman proposed amending the ordinance to only deal with transient merchants rather than regulating peddlers and solicitors. Local nonprofits can fall into the definitions of peddlers and solicitors, but not transient merchants.
“I like the idea on revising the transient merchant ordinance ... but as far as the other ones, I agree maybe it’s best to table it and just tackle the transient merchant portion of it to start with,” said Mayor Scott Mangold.
Kitchen said she would revise the ordinance and bring it back to the council.
Once a revised version is approved by the council, it will replace Powell’s current law dealing with door-to-door salesmen. That law hasn’t been enforced for the past two years over concern it violates sellers’ Constitutional right to free speech. Known as a Green River ordinance, the law prohibits salesmen from going door-to-door, selling or taking orders for a product or service, unless they were invited to do so.
“Communities like Green River ordinances, but they’ve been challenged in court and struck down,” Kitchen said.
The Green River ordinance is named after the first city to enact a ban on door-to-door salesmen — Green River, Wyo., which did so in 1931 after night-shift railroad workers complained of the salesmen’s door-knocking.
Green River ordinances — and the ordinace being considered by the Powell council — do not apply to religious and political groups going door-to-door.
Local residents continue to have every right to regulate anyone who comes on their property. Powell Police Chief Tim Feathers said if residents don’t want salesmen knocking on their doors, all they need to do is post a sign saying so. If a salesman refuses to leave, then police will deal with it as trespassing. Mangold said printed signs are available for residents at Powell City Hall as a public service. He quipped that posted signs can act as kryptonite to keep unwanted salesmen at bay.
Kitchen said someone asked her if a sign could read: “No solicitors or peddlers, except Girl Scouts.”
The answer? Absolutely.
“That would be a property owner’s prerogative,” Kitchen said.