Council adopts no-median rule for solicitors

Dec. 18, 2012 @ 07:06 PM


A unanimous City Council has approved a rules change that bars roadside solicitors from working on the medians of Durham’s major roadways.

The solicitation ordinance passed during Monday’s meeting as part of the council’s consent agenda. Neither it nor any of the other items on the consent agenda sparked any debate.

The no-medians rule will take effect in January, 30 days after its passage. Officials aren’t anticipating much trouble in enforcing it.

“I’m pretty optimistic we’ll just be telling people they’ve got to move off the medians,” City Manager Tom Bonfield said, adding that officials will use the coming month to communicate “with people who are potentially going to be in violation to let them know where they can and can’t” solicit.

A ticket or other form of charge alleging a violation of a city ordinance awaits those who refuse to comply with an officer’s order, he said.

The ordinance limits solicitors to sidewalks. It’s intended to prohibit from-the-median approaches to motorists in places such as the U.S. 15-501 and Fayetteville Road corridors.

Monday’s vote also did away with an existing requirement that would-be solicitors register with the city and pay a $20 annual fee.

That change took immediate effect on Tuesday as administrators in the city Finance Department stopped collecting the fee.

“We’re no longer issuing permits, so we’re not going to take anybody’s money,” Bonfield said.

The Finance Department likely will be asked to keep leaflets on hand to explain the new rules to anyone who comes in to try to register, he said.

Bonfield and other officials hammered out the new rules in behind-the-scenes talks with council members.

Councilman Eugene Brown earlier this month labeled the no-medians rule “a compromise” as he would have preferred banning roadside solicitation entirely.

The council has fielded emails from a couple residents voicing similar sentiments.

One came from south Durham resident Dave Snider, who said an outright ban would be “clear and easily enforceable.” He criticized council members for not debating the measure.

Roadside solicitation makes “us look like an old Eastern European country, particularly when none of the adjoining communities allow” it, Snider said in an email exchange with Councilman Steve Schewel.

Schewel told Snider he voted for the ordinance to “see what effect it has.” He added, “If we need to, we can do more in the future.”