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News Town officials look into regulating solicitors

When we think of solicitors, often we think of phone numbers popping up on our caller I.D. that are usually unrecognizable and therefore receive none of our attention as we push the ignore button. If only it were that simple when the solicitor is approaching your car as you sit at a stop light in the Franklin city limits trying not to make eye contact as he or she extends a bucket for your donation, and you hope the light turns green quickly.

This may not be an overwhelming issue in Franklin, but none the less there are moments throughout the year where individuals soliciting funds for their chosen cause may be out in force and in response, town officials may look to form some guidelines for these groups or individuals to follow.

“Generally, municipalities are given board authority to regulate their streets and sidewalks in G.S. Chapter 160A, but are given special, additional authority to implement a permitting system for solicitations in the streets,” said Town Attorney John Henning Jr. “The authority to operate such a permitting system didn't come along until about 2005, so the Town hasn't addressed it yet. The other alternative is to ban solicitations in the streets outright.”

At last week's Board of Aldermen meeting, town officials had a chance to discuss potential guidelines that the town could require to be met by organizations wishing to solicit from motorists.

According to Franklin Police Chief David Adams, no permit is currently required to solicit inside the city limits.

“Right now we don't have a permit that they can fill out, but I've talked to Warren [Cabe] and Derek [Roland] about it and we talked about putting one online for easy access,” said Adams. According to Henning, the officials could require applications to be submitted before a solicitor is allowed to function in the city limits.

“One of the things you can't require [on the application] is for solicitors to tell who they are and why they are there. You'll get into viewpoint discrimination in a hurry if you're not careful,” said Henning. “If they've got $25 which is the maximum amount that can be required and proof of insurance then I wouldn't recommend asking much more on the application.”

Henning further speculated that officials would be able to limit the locations and possibly even the times that these operations could occur.

“We're just concerned with safety,” added Alderman Farrell Jamison. “The speed limit on Main Street and in front of the Amish deli is lower so it's not as bad, but the traffic that is coming down by Hardee's is significantly faster. It's dangerous for them at that intersection.”

Alderman Bob Scott agreed with Jamison. “This is a public safety issue. We're not telling people that they can't do it, we're just saying that you can't get out in the intersection and do it,” said Scott.

Franklin would not be the first municipality in North Carolina to take up the issue. The Town of Forest City requires a permit from any solicitor 15 days prior to the proposed date of operations. Tacked on to a slew of guidelines concerning the process of submitting the application, there is also a list of prohibited activities as well. According to the Forest City ordinance, it is unlawful to:

- Solicit or peddle between the hours of 8:00 p.m. and 8:00 a.m.;

- Accost another, or by forcing oneself upon the company of another;

- Touch a person being solicited without the persons consent;

- Block the path of a person being solicited or blocking the entrance or exit of any building or vehicle;

- Use profane or abusive language during solicitation;

- Use of a gesture or act intended to cause a reasonable person to be fearful of the solicitor or make the person being solicited to feel compelled to accede to the solicitation;

- Be under the influence of alcohol or have illegally used controlled substances;

- Continue to solicit an individual after the person has made a negative response, either verbally or by physical sign, and

- To solicit/peddle or attempt to solicit/peddle from city streets to include the right of way, sidewalks, median or shoulder thereof.

Forest City also bans people from standing, sitting, or loitering in a city street or right of way for the purpose of employment, business or contribution from the driver or occupant of a motor vehicle. This restriction does not apply to employees or contractors of the Department of Transportation or the city itself.

The Chapel Hill Code of Ordinances restricts the time that people are allowed to solicit, stating that solicitation along with panhandling can only take place during the day and that it cannot occur within 20 feet of an entrance or exit of any bank, financial institution, or automated teller machine (ATM). The ordinance also aims to keep people from soliciting contributions while standing on a roadway or shoulder or median of a roadway.

Franklin could have a similar ordinance on the books sooner rather than later since the Aldermen unanimously voted to allow Henning and Town Planner Derek Roland to formulate a permitting system for discussion at a future meeting.





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