Following a series of alarming recounts of unwanted solicitation, Mayor Kelly Yaede and Councilwoman Dina Thornton proposed in May not one, but two “Do Not” bother registries.
The first is the “Do Not Knock” ordinance, which would allow Hamilton residents the option to opt out of solicitors coming to their doorstep. The second, “Do Not Drop,” is a newer idea that also gives residents the option to discontinue unwanted circulars. Both are similar to a “Do Not Call” list.
The township council passed the ordinance by a vote of 5-0 in its Sept. 19 meeting. From there the ordinance moved to the desk of Kelly Yaede, where she was expected to sign it. The ordinance would go into effect 20 days after it has her signature.
“What this new ordinance would do is say to those solicitors, ‘Mary Jo doesn’t want you to knock on her door,’ and they would have to respect her rights. It’s an extra level of safety, security and privacy,“ Yaede said.
Thornton added, “This is very important and brings another level of security for our residents, and it should be our residents’ choice to be a part of this or not.”
Residents that would like to be included on the list would notify the municipal clerk’s office and in return would be given a decal to place visibly, either on their front door or window, to solicitors. These residents would remain on the registry for four years, where they could renew or opt out early.
Any solicitor who violates the ordinance could face fines of up to $100 per violation. Under the First Amendment, religious, political or charitable organizations would still be allowed to freely knock on doors.
“Seniors get taken advantage off often these days, so to them or to a mother who’s home alone with her children, this a tool that no one will approach their homes during late hours,” Yaede said.
“Do Not Knock” came from Yaede’s visits to the Hamilton senior center where she was alarmed after hearing their stories.
“They would say, ‘Mayor, someone knocked on my door, and I have no idea who it was,” Yaede said.
She added that some seniors would tell her just how late at night solicitors came to knock on their doors, and caused the senior to worry for their safety. Taking from her own experience with her grandparents, she remembers going through their mail to ensure no one was trying to steal money from them.
“I knew from after talking to them at the center that I needed to find a way to provide some type of mechanism to protect them,” she added.
Currently, Hamilton Township has an ordinance that requires solicitors to both register and operate between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. Both Yaede and Thornton think that an extra level of security needs to be added and the hours need to change.
Yaede said she began working toward an improved solicitation ordinance back in September 2014. For two years, the directors discussed solutions, and the town’s legal advisors have helped shaped the current version of “Do Not Knock” legislation.
In March 2017, Thornton joined the project, and the two began researching similar registries across the country, keeping seniors in mind.
“Years ago when someone knocked on your door it was a visitation. It was someone you knew,” Yaede said. “However, in this day and age, people do not appreciate when someone knocks on their door. They don’t have that same welcoming feeling, they anticipate the worst.”
They also began making headway on the “Do Not Drop” ordinance, which would allow residents to also register with the clerk’s office in order to stop receiving unwanted flyers, pamphlets, menus and more on their driveways.
Since announcing the proposal in the spring, the administration made several tweaks before allowing it on the council’s docket. Language was changed on the “Do Not Drop” ordinance to ensure that the freedom of the press was protected; the early version prohibited the drop-off of papers. It worked to finalize the license fee schedule associated with this ordinance to minimize any increases in fees, along with changing some language to prohibit solicitations at intersections, which could cause traffic safety concerns. Finally, Kuser Park and other recreational areas were designated as allowable areas for vendor parking, upon proper licensing.
In early August, a final internal meeting was held to complete some adjustments to the ordinance. In attendence was Yaede, Thornton, council president Dennis Pone, Police Chief James Collins, township attorney Lindsay Burbage and staff from the municipal clerk’s office. The ordinance was introduced at the Aug. 15 council meeting.
Hamilton resident John Barnosky, Jr., in a letter to the Hamilton Post in June, expressed his concern for how long it has taken the township to enact the registries. A retired pharmaceutical sales representative, Barnosky has lived in Yardville for 30 years and has experienced the parade of solicitations at his front doorstep.
“I can’t even put a number on it…it’s more disturbing than anything, and it’s beyond a nuisance,” Barnosky said.
After a discussion with his sister that resides in South Plainsboro last year, Barnosky researched “Do Not Knock” ordinances after hearing it was not just a problem localized to Hamilton.
In August 2016, he attended the regular council meeting and spoke in the public section, where he expressed his concerns about soliciters in the township. He suggested a “Do Not Knock” policy for Hamilton and gave them an ordinance from South Plainfield, which he said “prevents solicitors from knocking on resident’s doors to sell things.”
The meeting minutes confirms both Yaede’s and Barnosky’s accounts, reading “President [Ileana] Schirmer advised Council has been in discussions regarding implementation of a No-Knock Ordinance.”
Barnosky said even a solicitor at the August 2016 meeting thought his idea was a great one. He said he then followed up with council several times, but nothing seemed to happen until the release of the proposal at the end of May.
Barnosky said he wants to see an end to late night visitors to not only his neighborhood. But he also wants to see credit given to residents who brought up the idea for an ordinance.
When asked about if she knew of Barnosky’s inquiry, Yaede said that she was made aware of his remarks.
“This just reemphasizes how residents really do want this, and it’s so important to both them and us,” she said.
In the end, it seems everyone wants the same thing regardless of exactly how it began: an end to unwelcomed visitors.