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Sequim Planning Commission reviews draft peddlers license

A stronger "peddlers and solicitors" ordinance that should be more enforceable and include background checks will be the subject of a public hearing next month before the Sequim City Council.

The revised ordinance is the result of resident complaints and concerns about door-to-door salespeople that included aggressive sales tactics, said code compliance officer Lisa Hopper.

It will be on the agenda for the city council at its Aug. 18 study session, which begins at 9 a.m. at the Sequim Transit Center, 190 W. Cedar St.

Then the ordinance, including any revisions by the council, will go back to the planning commission at its Aug. 19 meeting, which begins at 6 p.m. at the Transit Center prior to the Sept. 8 public hearing.

Planning director Dennis Lefevre said the council will be asked at the Sept. 8 meeting to declare an emergency and waive the second reading of the ordinance so it can take effect immediately.

Ordinances regulating peddlers and solicitors typically are advertised at the entrance to cities by a sign stating "Green River Ordinance Enforced." The sign refers to the city of Green River, Wyo., that on Nov. 16, 1931, approved "Ordinance No. 175" banning door-to-door salespeople unless they are invited into the person's home.

The planning commission first reviewed Sequim's revised ordinance at its July 15 meeting then again at its Aug. 5 meeting.

The city's revised ordinance doesn't prohibit door-to-door sales but tries to "establish reasonable restrictions on peddling/soliciting activities within the city limits."

Lefevre told the planning commission at its July 15 meeting that the city's code enforcement officer asked for a change to the city's current ordinance to give stronger enforcement authority and the ability to conduct background checks on salespeople.

After reviewing the revised ordinance, Hopper said it's a good ordinance but still needs to address an appeal process and the security bond.

Legal intern Kristina Nelson said someone who wants a license immediately can post a cash bond. But there's no procedure in the ordinance for someone to pursue the bond money and what the city does with the interest also isn't addressed, Nelson said.

Planning commissioner Larry Freedman said that sounds like a legal issue that city attorney Craig Ritchie should address.

Planning commissioner Theodore Miller said the clause stating that unwanted or uninvited peddlers would be guilty of trespassing was excellent, adding, "I should have thought of that."

Nelson said the word trespass is repeated elsewhere in the ordinance for emphasis.

Miller said the covenants, conditions and restrictions of many homeowner associations include prohibitions on peddlers and solicitors and the city shouldn't preempt those.

Nelson said if those home-owner association prohibitions are challenged in the courts, they might not hold up so she will check with Ritchie.

Miller said if someone is discharged from the military for medical reasons, it's listed as a general discharge and not an honorable discharge so that could keep that person from getting a license. Nelson said the honorable discharge is required by state law.

Planning commissioner Michael East said he would be annoyed if someone knocked on his door at 8 p.m. so the ordinance should restrict peddlers to 7 p.m. Nelson said hours of operation has been a subject of litigation. Those restrictions have been struck down as being an unreasonable burden but there's no hard and fast rule, she said.

It's almost decided on a case by case basis so maybe that stopping time can be changed to 7 p.m., Nelson said.

Sequim might be able to make a better case for an earlier stopping time because of the city's large number of retirees, she said.

Nelson said the ordinance doesn't apply to charitable or religious groups so they aren't restricted to those hours of operation in the ordinance.

East said people should give peddlers "every opportunity" to know that you don't want them on your property, including signs.

He would like to see how the ordinance is drafted as well as Ritchie's responses to their comments, East said.

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