MAHOPAC, N.Y. - Nearly a year in the making, legislation that bans door-to-door solicitation won Town Board approval last week.
The law will not apply to commercial businesses, which need to deal with salespeople, nor does it prohibit political candidates from campaigning door-to-door. It also won’t stop ice cream trucks from traveling local streets and selling their summertime treats.
The board held a public hearing on the proposed new code during its July 24 meeting, which no one attended. The board, with councilmen Jonathan Schneider and John Lupinacci absent, then voted 3-0 to enact the new law.
The solicitation ban will go into effect Jan. 1. Until then, peddlers must continue to obtain town-issued permits before knocking on doors.
Supervisor Ken Schmitt first proposed the law last August, saying he’d received numerous complaints from residents who said the growing number of door-to-door peddlers had become an intolerable nuisance.
“The residents have a concern that there appears to be way too many peddlers going throughout their neighborhoods,” he said. “It seems that they are even going door-to-door during nighttime hours when it’s dark out. In some cases, when they knock on the door and the homeowner doesn’t answer, they walk around to the back of the house, which has been extremely alarming and concerning to the homeowner. When someone you didn’t open the front door for is now on your back deck, that’s a problem.”
Schmitt said the number of soliciting permits issued by the town over the past several years has continued to grow. In 2015, 12 such permits were handed out. That jumped to 27 in 2016. In 2017, there was a slight drop-off to 21, but last year it rocketed to 31 permits.
“It’s a problem that got out of control and needed to be addressed,” Schmitt said.
The cost of today’s permits is $500 for each peddler. So, if a solicitor has five peddlers on his staff, the cost would be $2,500.
“I understand that they want to get out and drum up business, but I am concerned about the number of them,” Schmitt said. “There were 31 permits [in 2018], but there can be multiple people under each permit. The solicitor will drop off eight or 10 of his peddlers in a certain neighborhood and tell them, ‘go door-to-door,’ and then they may move to another neighborhood the following night. Many folks have had it with this.”
Schmitt said he knows the town will see a revenue drop by prohibiting such permits, but he called that a small price to pay when compared to the problem.
“I know there is going to be a bit of a revenue hit because there is some money generated by issuing these permits, but I think the concerns that have been raised by the public outweigh that by quite a bit,” he said.
Schmitt noted that Carmel’s neighbors to the north, the town of Southeast, already have such a law on their books and said he wanted Carmel to emulate it.
“This is about trespassing on private property,” he said. “Especially when they go around to the back door; we can’t have that. It’s particularly concerning to senior citizens and those who have young children at home.”
Board members said solicitors are usually selling services and products such as petroleum products, meat, roofing, siding, handyman services, pest control and driveway-sealing services.