Township being pressed to extend its solicitation curfew
● By Richard Gaw
Kennett Township is currently embroiled in a conflict with a nationally-known pest control company, which is attempting to force the township to strip down its ordinances to keep door-to-door sales calls in the township to what the township feels are reasonable hours.
After a presentation and subsequent request by township solicitor David Sander at the Board of Supervisors meeting on July 18, supervisors Dr. Richard Leff and Whitney Hoffman both voted to not enforce its current law – which permits door-to-door sales from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays – as well as authorize Sander to draft a new ordinance that allows solicitors to conduct business until a half-hour after sunset, on those days. (Board chairman Scudder Stevens was not in attendance at the meeting.)
The company is challenging the township, calling the 6 p.m. curfew “unconstitutional.”
Sander said that the township recently received a letter from the company, which uses door-to-door solicitations as the primary means of how it contracts services for its clients. They referred to a case law that supported their argument, which led Sander to study the cases, and concluded that the company's argument is correct.
“There is a Supreme Court decision and a Third Circuit Court decision that both say that a curfew before 9 p.m. is unconstitutional, because it is not closely tailored to serving an important public purpose, which is how they look at this type of ordinance, because it is commercial speech, and it is a First Amendment protected right,” Sander told the board. “The courts have done the analysis and many courts have agreed that 9 p.m. is the magic number.
“That's what the law says.”
Sander said that township manager Lisa Moore recently contacted the township's insurance carrier, which has assigned counsel, who will cover the township if the township is sued by the company. However, the insurance carrier will not cover the township if the township does not make a reasonable effort to come into compliance with the law.
After Sander told representatives from the company that a 9 p.m. curfew would not be acceptable to the township, the representatives countered with a request that the township agree to suspend enforcement of its current ordinance to allow solicitation in the township from 9 a.m. to 30 minutes after sunset, Monday through Saturday.
In order to stave off the possibility of the township being sued, the board agreed to Sander's recommendation to amend its solicitation ordinance to allow door-to-door sales to be extended to 30 minutes after sunset, Monday through Saturday.
Secondly, the board agreed to add language to its ordinance establishing an address list of residents in the township who choose to join a “No Solicitation” registry that will be compiled and made available to solicitors who seek to conduct door-to-door sales in the township, from the Kennett Township Police Department.
In addition, the board agreed that it would direct its police department to enforce a 30 minutes-after-sunset curfew.
During the discussion, the popular sentiment shared between Leff, Hoffman, Moore and Sander was that the company's efforts are a “bullying tactic” intended to strong arm the township into changing its laws.
“I really feel like I'm having to trade my [constituents'] privacy for some company who is trying to make me paranoid about spiders and bugs,” said supervisor Whitney Hoffman.
Curfew times aside, Police Chief Lydell Nolt said that keeping a lid on door-to-door solicitors in the township is in the hands of its residents.
“Even if they have a permit, you have no legal [responsibility] to talk to them,” Nolt said. “You can simply ask them to leave and they have to leave, even if they have a permit. The permit allows them to solicit in the township, but it does not give them any legal authority to engage with you in a business transaction. You can tell them to leave your property, and at that point, if they don't, you have a trespasser.”
While the township wrangles with the company over curfew times for door-to-door sales, Moore said that the establishment of a “No Solicitation” registry for township residents could become the silver lining in the cloud of this thorny issue.
“I actually think in the end, we end up with a better solution than we had before, because we had no idea that people can opt out of this,” she said.
In other township business, Moore told the board that the State of Pennsylvania informed the township that it can now begin the bidding phase for the rehabilitation of the historic Chandler Mill Bridge, its neighboring trails in the bridge's vicinity, as well as the resurfacing of nearby roads. Moore said that the township's engineering firm is currently reviewing the bid documents to be assured that they do not violate the historic nature of the bridge, before the bidding process can begin. Additional information about project dates for the bridge's rehabilitation will be provided at the next supervisors' meeting on Aug. 1.
The board gave approval to a resolution that authorized the township to apply for several grants through the Multi-Modal Transportation Fund, to be submitted on July 31, in order to help pay for the installation of a roundabout at the Five Points intersection. At its Feb. 7 meeting, the supervisors voted unanimously to enter the township into a grant exploration period this year, in order to help pay for the proposed installation of an oval-shaped roundabout at the five-legged intersection that merges South Union Street, Hillendale Road and Old Kennett Road, beginning in 2021.
Moore told the board that she feels confident that the township will be able to receive enough in grant money from the fund to pay for 100 percent of the cost of construction.
The township and Kennett Borough recently received their second TMACC award from the Transportation Management Association for Chester County, for a concept that provides trail connection from Pennock Park to Anson B. Nixon Park. The first award was given for an active transportation plan, introduced by the township and the borough, that introduced several trail projects in the township and the borough.
On June 22, PennDOT closed the Clifton Mill Bridge on Creek Road, and notified the township that they were closing the bridge indefinitely, as there are major deficiencies on the bridge. PennDOT will offer the township no timeline for the repairs schedule and reopening dates for the bridge. There are detours set up in the vicinity of the bridge.
The bridge on Hillendale Road near Chandler Mill Road was closed by the county for a period of two weeks in order to make repairs on it. The bridge is scheduled to reopen in August.
The sidewalks that were recently installed as part of the township's Sidewalk Project on Macfarlan Road, Rosedale Road, Old Baltimore Pike and Cypress Street have been completed and are now open to the public.
The township's planning commission is working with the Chester County Planning Commission on a comprehensive review of the township's ordinances through a Vision Partnership Grant. The county will pay 70 percent of the costs for the study, while the township will be 30 percent – or about $8,000 – for the year-and-a-half-long study.
The board signed off on a grant the township received from Green Light Go, which will pay for 50 percent of the cost needed for the state-implemented upgrading of several traffic signals in the township. They include the installation of signals, video cameras and digital radar at the Five Points intersection; at the intersection of Exelon Way, Baltimore Pike and Waywood Road; at the intersection of Baltimore Pike and Mcfarlan Road; and at the intersection of Route 52 and Hillendale Road.
The township will pay about $30,000 for what Moore said “is work that we have to do.”
The township is working with Kennett Borough and a consultant to implement ordinance changes that needed to be completed before the borough and township can implement its joint economic development study. The township and the borough will hold their quarterly joint economic development meeting on July 30 at the township building, beginning at 6:00 p.m. The meeting will include a presentation of the township's alternative transportation plan. At the meeting, the township's supervisors and the borough council will provide an update on the economic development process.
Moore announced that the township has chosen the Wilmington branch of AECOM, a national engineering solutions firm, as the general township engineers.
Nolt said that the township's police department will again join the Kennett Borough Police Department and the Kennett Square Fire Department at the annual National Night Out event on Aug. 7, which will take place on the 300 block of Linden Street in Kennett Square.
Nolt again stressed township residents to use the 911-call system during emergencies, which he said is the fastest response method for emergency services.
To contact Staff Writer Richard L. Gaw, email firstname.lastname@example.org.