LIVINGSTON, NJ — In order to avoid conflict with a company that is threatening to sue the Township of Livingston and other municipalities if they do not amend their door-to-door solicitation restrictions, Township Attorney Sharon Weiner announced during Monday’s council meeting that she is drafting a new door-to-door solicitation ordinance for the township that she believes will satisfy the company’s concerns.
Aptive Environmental LLC, a pest control service that has already been present in the township for nearly two months, is challenging Livingston’s current solicitation ordinance, claiming that the 6 p.m. time restriction is infringing on the company’s constitutional right to commercial speech. This has been the company’s argument in municipalities through the country, where courts have reached verdicts in favor of Aptive Environmental in many cases.
“We’ve gotten some complaints about them and they also threatened to sue us based on our ordinance,” said Weiner. “Our current commercial ordinance stops people at 6 p.m. and doesn’t allow them to go out on weekends, [so] we feel we have a good chance of being sued.”
Weiner stated that the township currently has ordinances in place for peddlers, canvassers, solicitors and distributors, and suggested that the township combine these into one ordinance with a concrete time that these individuals can approach homes until. She recommended that sunset should be sufficient to “show that [Livingston is] making the effort to make our ordinance more in compliance with the standard.”
She further explained that there is currently a $10-per-day fee per person to solicit within the township, but recommended that the township raise the price to $50 per day per person under the new ordinance. Weiner also suggested that police thoroughly investigate those who apply to solicit within the township.
“I think that this is a rational approach,” said Weiner, and Township Manager Barry Lewis, an attorney by trade, added that he believes this new ordinance as proposed is “defensible” based on some of the other cases he has read.
Some aspects of the ordinance, including the requirement for all solicitors to apply for and obtain a permit, will remain the same, according to Weiner. Background checks and better enforcement were also among the aspects discussed on Monday.
“In our current ordinance, we have that our police have to do an investigation,” said Weiner. “That really has not been happening because the police don’t do finger printing anymore…it has to go out to a company and that could take a couple of weeks and that was one of the main issues they had with us.”
Within this particular company, Weiner stated that background checks have been conducted on each of the employees. She said she is going to request that the employer send a letter for each individual stating that he or she has passed a background check and that the employer will be responsible and liable for any of the employee’s actions.
In addition, although it might not be written into the ordinance, Weiner recommended that the township implement a “Do Not Solicit” list that will be maintained by the clerk’s office. She and Lewis agreed that this would be a crucial supplement to the new ordinance, and that it will be extremely easy for residents to sign up via the township website or at the clerk’s office.
All of the council members agreed that as Weiner and Lewis begin to fine-tune the wording of the proposed ordinance, they should decide on a specific length of time that permits will be valid for. Many also agreed that one year would be too long, and that a period of a few weeks or months would be more appropriate.
Weiner took all of their comments into account, and suggested that the council adopt a final ordinance sooner rather than later.
In the meantime, she also noted that the police department is aware of certain issues that have arisen with door-to-door peddlers, including complaints about individuals with permits who have misrepresented themselves as township employees. Weiner said that the department has realized a need to respond to these complaints and is currently working to support residents. Read more information about these incidents from the township HERE.
Roseland was recently among the neighboring municipalities to adopt a similar ordinance. Click HERE to learn more.