Who's knocking on your door, Reynoldsburg?

City Council on June 8 unanimously approved a new solicitors ordinance, effective July 8. The ordinance expands the duration of permits and adding criminal penalties for those who ignore "no soliciting" signs.

The ordinance seeks to protect "the privacy of residents and minimizing fraudulent practices by persons representing themselves as peddlers, solicitors or canvassers," according to legislation presented to council.

It moves the permitting process from the public-services department to the police department, which will be charged with verifying solicitors have passed an FBI background check. The department will maintain a list of solicitors with active permits, and the list will be available to the public.

Under the new law, permit fees will be raised from $15 to a minimum of $25.

Permits previously were valid for 14 days.

The city now will let solicitors apply for permits of varying length, up to Dec. 31 of the calendar year in which they apply.

According to the legislation approved by council, costs will be $25 for 14 days, $35 for 30 days, $75 for six months and $100 for those lasting through Dec. 31.

Solicitors may knock on doors between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m., or 30 minutes before sunset, whichever is earlier.

The law also makes a salesperson who ignores no-soliciting signs guilty of criminal trespass charges, a fourth-degree misdemeanor.

"Council is being responsive to the voices in the community who want more accountability for solicitors and more privacy in their home. We are hopeful that this will discourage unlawful soliciting," said Chris Shook, city attorney. "Businesses who utilize door-to-door solicitation have been receptive as well because we are granting them some more flexibility on the length of their permits.

"With that flexibility, we believe those businesses will be more likely to go through the permit process, which includes a background check that protects our community members."

Homeowners need to display a "weatherproof card, decal or sign not less than 3 inches by 4 inches in size or more than 1 square foot in total surface area upon or near the main entrance door to the residence or place of business, indicating such determination by the owner or occupant, containing the language, 'No Soliciting per Rey. Ord. 741.02,' with letters at least 1/3 inch in height," according to the legislation.

Homeowners may display handwritten signs as long as they meet the requirements; however, the city plans to make "no soliciting" decals displaying the legal language available for $5.

Politicians and charity groups remain exempt from obtaining solicitor permits.

Residents are encouraged to report aggressive or unlicensed solicitors to the city.

Last spring, the city shelved a plan to create a "do-not-knock" registry. Like a "do-not-call" registry, the legislation would have created a voluntary registry for residents and provide the list to all solicitors with valid city permits.

Hilliard, Whitehall and Prairie Township in Franklin County and Orange Township in Delaware County maintain similar registries. Dublin provides residents with "no solicitors" stickers.

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