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Salem council committee eyes end of door-to-door sales

SALEM — The city of Salem is looking to prohibit door-to-door sales, with some exceptions for charitable organizations, churches or children under 18 soliciting donations for a non-profit group.

The proposed new stance is a change from current practice, which allows for door-to-door soliciting in the city as long as the person doing the selling has a city permit to do so.

The topic came up during a Rules and Ordinances Committee meeting held via Zoom on Tuesday night.

Cyndi Baronzzi Dickey, who chairs the committee, reported to fellow committee members Councilmen Steve Faber and Dennis Plegge that she had received some complaints about door-to-door solicitors and suggested the change.

The proposal will come before all of city council for a decision.

The law will still allow for transient dealers and vendors, such as a food truck setting up in a lot temporarily, but nothing door-to-door. The police department routinely fields complaints about door-to-door solicitors and explains to the solicitors that they need to get a city permit, but now that requirement will be eliminated and they’ll be banned — period.

The section regarding the permit for door-to-door solicitors will be eliminated also.

Dickey also proposed increasing the fine for violations of the solicitation law from $100 to $200. Faber asked if that was enough, but Dickey said “I don’t think we want to be too heavy-handed with this.”

Faber questioned how the ban affects people who collect for the heart fund or cancer or kids selling candy bars door-to-door. Law Director Brooke Zellers said they would fall under the list of exceptions.

In other business, Dickey said she was contacted about an alley situation. She wasn’t sure if this situation should go to the Streets, Alleys & Sidewalks Committee or not, but thought the conversation could start with her committee.

She said there are a lot of alleys in the community that are not maintained by the city, some are vacated and some are not. One alley in particular off of South Union Avenue was covered over with grass and said all the property owners near it are in favor of vacating except for one. City policy is normally to require that all property owners be in agreement before a vacation will be granted. She asked about the city’s liability if something occurred or someone was hurt on the city right-of-way.

Zellers said the city isn’t required to maintain alleys and would not be liable in a situation like that. He noted the reason the city requires all property owners to sign off on a proposed alley vacation is because if a legal issue comes up and not all property owners signed off, the city could be sued, too.

Mayor John Berlin said someone wanting an alley vacated would have to file the request with the city zoning officer and the petition would have to be signed by all the property owners. He also noted that if an alley is vacated and divided among the property owners on either side, then the property owners would be responsible for the property tax on their part of that land.

Zoning Officer Chip Hank said the people who don’t want the vacation access the back of their property through the alley. The mayor also added that they haven’t been able to access it because another property owner put up a shed on the right-of-way that they’ve been told they have to remove.

Faber questioned the reason for one of the property owners wanting to own the extra land and said there’s probably more to it than what’s being said.

“I’m scratching my head as to what the reasoning is for this,” he said.

No action was taken regarding alleys or that alley in particular.

Dickey asked Faber and Plegge to start reviewing the dog ordinance for a future meeting, saying there have been a lot of dog issues in the city recently. Apparently that includes a complaint about an aggressive dog at the dog park.

She also suggested reviewing the trash hauler ordinance. Since council defeated the idea of a single hauler to serve the city, she said they should review the existing ordinance to see if there’s something they could change to make things a little better for everyone in the community.

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