Germantown moves closer to solicitation crack down

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By Aarron Fleming

Germantown’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen passed on second reading its proposed changes to the city’s rules for vendors and solicitation at its meeting Monday night.
The proposed changes will include a number of things including implementing a permit process for vendors and solicitors as well as penalties for violating the new rules.
As part of the second reading, a public hearing was also held which saw one comment from a resident who expressed why she is in favor of the changes.
No frequent solicitors or commercial vendors have pushed back in response yet to the proposed amendment, according to Jason Huisman, assistant city administrator for Germantown.
“And while you will still be able to purchase Girl Scout Cookies and kids can still express the entrepreneurial spirit by operating a lemonade stand,” the city said in a press release,” the amendment establishes strict rules and identifies enforcement authority and penalties for violators.”
The proposed changes are broken up into four main parts: door-to-door solicitation, the distribution of handbills, peddling, soliciting, and temporary merchants and mobile food and frozen desert vendors.
The strictest changes apply to door-to-door solicitation and set up several rules that solicitors must comply with to operate.
The one that residents will likely be the happiest about is that they are protected from any kind of unwanted solicitation so long as they post a no solicitation or no trespassing sign at the entrance to their home or business.
Another one of the changes is that the ordinance will distinguish between commercial and non-commercial solicitation.
Commercial solicitors are required to obtain a permit from the city to operate, while non-commercial solicitors, which include religious and political solicitation, are not.
To obtain a permit, solicitors must pass a background check and provide proper identification including for the vehicles that they use to operate.
The permit lasts 60 days and can be renewed for additional 60-day periods.
Solicitors also have to wear a badge and are only allowed to operate from 9 a.m. to half-an-hour before sunset.
Huisman stated that even though religious and other non-commercial forms of solicitation are addressed in the changes, the city’s main focus is on commercial, for-profit solicitation.
“Our intention is for the health, safety and wellbeing of our residents,” he said.
According to him, the move to amend the previous ordinance and institute the new changes comes from the numerous complaints that the city’s police department has received from residents regarding unwanted solicitation.
The full text of the amendment included in Monday’s agenda packet also states that over the last year, the Economic and Community Development staff and members of the city administration have studied problems relating to quality of life and property maintenance in the area and have reviewed their codes to see where changes could be made to address those issues.
The team also looked at what other municipalities have done policy-wise to address the same issues in their communities.
One of those municipalities was Collierville which has had its own permit process and rules for solicitors in place for some time.
Husiman said that the changes that Germantown is proposing bare similarities to Collierville’s plan, but differ in that Germantown’s plan reinforces TN state law on solicitation.
The part of the plan that references TN state law includes the buyer’s right to cancel, seller’s responsibilities, and the return process for payments or goods and are a requirement for sales made through commercial solicitation.
Germantown BMA will hold a third and final reading of the proposed changes at its July 26 meeting.
Members of the public are welcome to attend.