By Andrew Martins
PLUMSTED – Following the lead of several municipalities that have addressed the issues of unwanted solicitation and canvassing, the Township Committee has approved similar measures in Plumsted.
On March 2, members of the governing body voted unanimously to amend the peddling and soliciting section of the municipal code with a more structured guideline for the practice.
Mayor Jack Trotta said the changes are proactive and not a reaction to something that is occurring in the community.
“We did not just adopt what (the other municipalities) had; we married our existing ordinance and what (other municipalities) put in place,” Trotta said. “Every town (deals with solicitation), but I have not heard of a rash of problems with this in Plumsted. We are just preventing this in advance.”
In recent months, residents in some Ocean County towns have complained to their local officials about individuals who have come on to their property to ask if the resident wants to sell his home, regardless of whether the home has been listed for sale.
In some cases, residents claim, solicitors have used the fear that people of a certain race or religion might move into the neighborhood as a means of trying to convince the homeowner to sell.
Plumsted will now prohibit a solicitor from using “race, color, sexual orientation, ethnicity or religious affiliation of neighbors, prospective buyers or other occupants of prospective occupants,” among other actions, as a way to influence a property owner to sell his home.
“Everybody knows that from time to time people look around and they will say, ‘I can do this for you at this price.’ You just have to be skeptical about those things when you get a knock on the door,” Trotta said.
Anyone who wants to solicit in Plumsted will have to provide two weeks notice to the township clerk’s office of his intent to do so.
In order to solicit or canvass in Plumsted, an applicant will have to provide the following information to the township clerk: the names and addresses of the solicitors and their employers; the locations where the individuals will be soliciting; the start and end dates of the solicitation campaign; information regarding any motor vehicles to be used and proof of insurance; and whether the individual or company applying to solicit has ever been denied permission to do so in the past.
When the requirements have been met, a permit that is good for 30 days will be issued. Solicitors will have to wear the permit in a location that is visible to members of the public at all times. The ordinance limits solicitation to 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 2 p.m. Sunday. Canvassing or soliciting may not be conducted on federal or state holidays.
Plumsted officials have established a “no-knock” registry which is a list of residents who have indicated they do not want solicitors to come to their home.
A solicitor who knocks on the door of a home that is on the “no knock” registry and displays a “no knock” decal will be subject to a $1,250 fine and the revocation of any peddler’s license he may hold. Anyone convicted of violating the “no knock” registry provisions could face up to 90 days in county jail.
In addition, the township clerk or the Plumsted police could file a complaint with the appropriate real estate board, the New Jersey Division of Civil Rights or any other appropriate state or federal agency if a licensed peddler violates the ordinance.
“We just wanted some people have the chance to say ‘don’t bother us for these things,’ ” Trotta said of the “no knock” registry.