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No solicitation sign? Don’t knock it

Posted: Wednesday, May 22nd, 2013

Courier editor

ALAMOSA — No means no when it comes to soliciting in the city of Alamosa.

The Alamosa city council this month unanimously approved an ordinance amendment prohibiting door-to-door solicitation of homes where “no soliciting” signs are posted.

“Any place a no solicitation sign has been put up by property owners that needs to be respected, whether commercial or nonprofit,” said Alamosa City Attorney Erich Schwiesow. “It’s really very simple.”

He added that nonprofit, noncommercial solicitors do not have to register for licenses with the city, but they do have to respect “no solicitation” signs. (The sale of fresh produce is also exempt from licensing.)

The ordinance spells out that noncommercial solicitation includes: seeking donations for nonprofit organizations; selling items to benefit nonprofits; delivering handbills or flyers for nonprofit events; religious proselytizing; campaigning; and soliciting newspaper or magazine subscriptions.

“Anybody can solicit except where there’s no solicitation signs, and commercial solicitors must obtain a license,” Schwiesow explained.

City Councilors Josef Lucero and Marcia Tuggle suggested it might be a good idea for commercial solicitors to be required to show their licenses to residents, but that is not in the ordinance approved by the council on May 15.

The ordinance does spell out that any person engaged in solicitation shall at the time of contact with the prospective customer or donor immediately identify himself/herself and “truthfully state the purpose of the solicitation.”

Tuggle said her 83-year-old mother was approached by a real estate agent who wanted to come into her house with the prospect of selling it at some point, and that was very concerning to Tuggle.

Schwiesow suggested the way to prevent that would be to put up a “no soliciting” sign, and then no one, commercial or otherwise, could approach the residence under the city’s ordinance.

The ordinance amendment approved last week actually eased the city’s code on solicitation. Previously, the code contained an outright prohibition on door-to-door solicitation unless the resident had invited the person to come to the home. Exempted groups included religious, nonprofit and charitable organizations.

Schwiesow recommended modifications in the ordinance because he stated outright prohibitions of door-to-door sales had been challenged in the courts based on First Amendment rights.

Based on his recommendation, the city council approved the amended ordinance to allow door-to-door sales except to homes where “no solicitation” signs are posted. These signs do not have to be anything fancy but must simply convey the message, according to Schwiesow.

The ordinance also limits solicitation times, whether commercial or non-commercial, to between 9 a.m. and sunset.

Violations of the city ordinance will be regarded as public nuisances.

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