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'Do Not Knock': Commissioners Review Royal Oak's Solicitation Ordinance

After a man allegedly pulls a gun on a door-to-door salesman, Commissioner David Poulton says it is time to review 'piecemeal' law.

To knock or not to knock? That is the question Royal Oak city commissioners are wrestling with in light of recent door-to-door solicitation incidents in the community.

At Monday's City Commission meeting, Commissioners David Poulton and Peggy Goodwin requested members discuss the city's peddling ordinance, saying they believe residents are weary of door-to-door salespeople.

On Jan. 9, a man reported to police that while going door-to-door soliciting with a valid solicitation permit, . This incident is under investigation.  

“It was pitch black out. The sun had set," Poulton said. “Because of the recent events of this city, the resident was quite scared and frightened. As a result he went to the door and it is alleged that a weapon was involved.”

In November, two  in the slaying of an elderly Royal Oak woman.   Also, after allegedly breaking in the front door of a Royal Oak home after no one responded to his knocks, police said. The homeowner and a guest were inside the home at the time.

What’s the problem?

The solicitor in the Jan. 9 incident had a permit and went to the police. “He said he didn’t know what the problem was,” Poulton said.

The difficulty is the ordinance has been piecemealed over the years and is problematic to read, according to Poulton. He would like City Attorney David Gillam to draft an updated ordinance. The commissioner explained he believes part of the problem is the city ordinance allows door-to-door solicitation from 9 a.m.-9 p.m. regardless the time of year.

Poulton would like the hours changed to 9 a.m.-7 p.m. or sunset, whichever is earlier. Under his proposal, if a solicitor showed up at a home at 6 p.m. and the official time of sunset was 5:45 p.m., the police could be called and the violator ticketed.

The commissioner would also like the city to consider a “do not knock” list, so residents or businesses could go to the city clerk’s office and request his or her address be placed on a list. This list would be given to those applying for solicitation permits so they would know which houses to avoid.

When someone knocks on your door, it does cause alarm, Commissioner Peggy Goodwin said. “Hopefully not to the extent you want to pull a gun on someone,” she said.

Goodwin believes not permitting solicitation after dark is a win-win for homeowners who want to see who is knocking on their door and for companies that want to keep their salespeople out of harm’s way.

What about free speech?

“I am willing to have this discussion,” Commissioner Kyle DuBuc said during Monday's meeting. “But (Poulton’s description of events) was a gross mischaracterization of the incident where the solicitor has a gun pointed at his face. I don’t know if that is necessarily the incident we want to hang this issue on.”

DuBuc said there is a discussion to be had about nighttime solicitation hours, but wanted to make sure the city did not infringe on free speech rights.

City Attorney David Gillam called DuBuc’s comments about free speech rights “well taken.”

“There are certain limits you can put on constraints in terms of hours and things like that, unless you can provide adequate alternatives,” Gillam said.

Gillam noted that someone who wants to put a roof on your house, rake leaves or sell Girl Scout cookies might be considered solicitors. Political speech is excluded from the solicitation ordinance.

'Do not knock' list

City Clerk Melanie Halas said she spoke to the city clerk in Bloomfield Hills about the issue on Monday.

“They have a ‘do not knock’ list right now. However, they tell the people that come in to be on the list that by law these people do have the right to still knock on the door,” Halas said. “So that is something that we do have to look into.”

Commissioner Mike Fournier said he understands folks don’t like people knocking on their doors, especially at night, but noted there are options that don’t require any changes to the ordinance. “You can not answer your door, or you can put up a ‘no soliciting’ sign,” he said.

Fournier worried changes to the ordinance would be a drain on the police and city clerk.

Poulton, Goodwin, Mayor Jim Ellision and Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Capello voted to support amending the ordinance. DuBuc, Fournier and Commissioner Jim Rasor voted against it.

The city's current Soliciation and/or Peddling Ordinance can be reviewed on the city's website.

Lynn February 08, 2012 at 02:49 PM
We need no soliciation in Royal Oak. It is scary opening your door to people you don't know especially in the dark. I have two large dogs and still am uncomfortable. If you try and ignore the door they come to your side door.
Lianne Mathie February 08, 2012 at 03:00 PM
With all due respect Mr. Fournier, they ignore the no soliciting signs. What's worse is most don't know what it means.
Phil February 17, 2012 at 06:27 PM
Aren't solicitors suppose to apply for a permit to go door-to-door in Royal Oak? Most do not do that. As for Mr. Fournier's comments about simply not answering your door... My daughter was watching TV & did not answer when 2 guys from ATT came to the door. One said, "I can see you're home. I can see your TV" That scared her! They returned 2 more times, after dark! The 3rd visit I confronted them. They would not leave. I asked if they had a permit - they said yes. I asked to see it. He said, "We applied 4 it, & r waiting." I then told them to get off my property - they would not. They left when I threatened to call police. I filed a complaint with ATT. I've had 1-2 solicitors come to my door everyday this week. I've had a solicitor call me a rude name because I wouldn't sign his petition. A Hanson's Window solicitor called my daughter a jerk, for not answering the door, & used scare tactics to try to make a sale with my 75 year old neighbor. I have been followed down my driveway, into my back yard. Absolutely no solicitor should be knocking on doors after dark! We have children & elderly folks in our neighborhood. These solicitors have no respect for our safety, privacy or quiet enjoyment of our homes. The sheer number of solicitors coming to our door is ridiculous! If solicitation is to be tolerated, it needs to be reigned in. Permits required, No solicitation after dark, No earlier than 10 AM, Tuesday and Thursday's only.
debbie mcdonald February 17, 2012 at 08:31 PM
Mr Fournier's advice is dangerous and counter to advice put our by the Police Department. The police warn that not answering the door may be dangerous, too. When a criminal knocks on the door and no one answers, they may assume the house is not occupied and then try to break in. I don't think commissioner Fournier knows what he is talking about!

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