Door-to-door sales issue defeated for a fourth time

FLINT TWP. — For the fourth time in the past six months, the township board has denied a request for a door-to-door sales permit and discussed legal ways to handle applications.

In a 5-2 vote, the township board turned down an application for a peddler’s license from Shy Enterprises Inc. to sell Kirby vacuum cleaners and supplies. The applicant, Lawrence Shy of Ann Arbor, sought permission to operate from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily but board members generally felt that time period was too long and reduced it to 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. except Sundays, before voting down the request altogether.

Clerk Kim Courts and Supervisor Karyn Miller cast the two yes votes, both having previously stated during similar decisions that it is unfair to put applicants through the permit process only to turn them down without good cause.

Door-to-door sales are allowed under township ordinance if applicants follow procedures including paying a fee and undergoing a background check and fingerprinting.

But peddler’s permits have continuously come under fire from board trustees and residents who voiced concerns about potential risks to residents, particularly senior citizens.

Shy’s application was tabled last month while the board consulted its attorney about legalities of removing peddler’s licenses from its ordinance sanctions.

Attorney Peter Goodstein responded with sample solicitation ordinances from Frankenmuth. One method would prohibit solicitors on private property for which the owner has “expressly requested” it via a posted sign or other notification.

The second method would involve the township establishing something akin to a do-not-call list of addresses which would be provided to applicants approved for door-to-door sales. Residents and business owners would need to request in writing to the clerk to have their address added to the list.

Clerk Courts disapproved of the second method, saying it could create a “tracking nightmare.” She said the list would need constant updating when people move or otherwise needed to be removed from the list.

Trustee Frank Kasle disagreed. He said he thought the do-not-call list could be an effective way to protect residents from unwanted solicitors. He voted against Shy’s request along with trustees Barb Vert, Belenda Parker and George Menoutes and Treasurer Marsha Binelli.

Vert cited an incident involving her mother and a vacuum cleaner salesman.

“I had to go to my mom’s house and throw him out because she could not get him to leave,’’ Vert said.

Police Chief George Sippert offered his opinion that solicitors who go through the application process are generally not the ones who pose a danger. He cited a recent arrest of solicitors operating in the township without a license, one had outstanding warrants.

The board did not act on Goodstein’s suggested methods of handling solicitation but Kasle suggested that some solution be considered at the next board meeting.

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