ROSELAND, NJ — After voicing their many concerns regarding a resolution to approve a settlement agreement with a company that is threatening to sue the Borough of Roseland if it does not make certain changes to its solicitation restrictions, the members of the Roseland Borough Council unanimously adopted the resolution on Tuesday in order to avoid a lawsuit.
The current solicitation ordinance in Roseland prohibits door-to-door solicitation after 7:30 p.m. Aptive Environmental LLC, a pest control service that is looking to solicit in Roseland, is challenging this ordinance, claiming that the time restriction is infringing on the company’s constitutional right to commercial speech.
According to Borough Attorney Ethan Jesse Sheffet, the national company has had success with this argument in other municipalities throughout the country and the state, where courts have reached verdicts in favor of Aptive Environmental. Under the amended ordinance, which will maintain certain requirements such as background checks, solicitors will be permitted to knock on the door until 30 minutes after sunset.
“We have discussed this with the chief of police because the governing body’s primary concern, as I’m sure you all can imagine, is public safety,” said Sheffet, who added that the borough is adamant about continuing to conduct background checks as well as maintaining the requirement for all solicitors to provide the borough with a list of dates that they will be in town. “The governing body is extremely concerned about this practice of solicitation.”
Sheffet said that because the company has said it is going to “sue Roseland tomorrow” if the agreement is not in place, it was necessary for the council to consider altering the parts of the ordinance that have been determined in other municipalities to be unconstitutional.
He and many of the council members were concerned that having solicitors knocking on doors until 30 minutes after sunset would extend their presence in the township considerably, specifically in the summer months when the sun often sets well after 8 p.m. Councilman David Jacobs said that he is extremely against this resolution, and that he “thinks it’s absolutely terrible” that anyone should be permitted to ring another person’s doorbell at that time.
“I get up at 4 a.m.,” he said. “The poor soul who rings my doorbell at that time is not going to be very happy with what I have to say. It’s a shame, it’s disgusting and I think it’s terrible how this town can be bullied into having to do what we have to do.”
Noting that the company has applied to have 23 solicitors going door to door in Roseland, Councilman Thomas Tsilionis said his greatest worry is that they are going to “bombard this town” and that “once you open the door for one person to be able to start going out and knocking on everybody’s door, you’re opening it up for everybody else to be able to come in.”
“The greatest way to know if somebody’s home or not is to knock on their door, and then tell them you’re selling some kind of service,” he said about the safety component of this ordinance. “That’s really why we passed this originally; it was for protection of the public. I understand that we don’t want the law suit, and I understand why we have to do this, but I’m still not very happy about it.”
Sheffet said that if the borough did not adopt these changes and the company filed a lawsuit, the municipality would have ultimately been responsible for the company’s attorney fees.
He also added that there is no ordinance that prohibits homeowners from putting “no solicitation” signs on their property.