Villages revisit solicitation regulations after Floral Park lawsuit

Villages revisit solicitation regulations after Floral Park lawsuit
The Village of Old Westbury was one village to address its solicitation regulations this week, placing a temporary moratorium on that section of the code. (Photo by Teri West)

North Shore villages are changing their solicitation laws, with some creating “do not solicit lists” for residents, after a company that reached a settlement with the Village of Floral Park alerted them about unconstitutional restrictions in their codes.

Munsey Park, Roslyn Estates, Old Westbury, Kensington and North Hills have all addressed the issue this month. Some of the villages had previously effectively banned commercial solicitation entirely.

Old Westbury put a three-month moratorium on its current solicitation law to allow the village board time to amend it, Kensington, Munsey Park and Roslyn Estates are creating “do not solicit” lists and North Hills is planning to eliminate rules about solicitation from its code altogether.

The company alerting them to the issues is Aptive Environmental, a pest control company that primarily markets through door-to-door solicitation, said its attorney Jeremy Fielding.

Summer is Aptive Environmental’s biggest selling season, and with a Long Island branch that opened a couple years ago, it is ready to start soliciting here, Fielding said. But before doing so, it reviews the code of each municipality to see what it must abide by and whether there are outdated restrictions, he said.

“Some of them have been in the books for 50 years,” Fielding said of the regulations. “There’s never been a reason to update it because nobody’s ever asked them to.”

Floral Park settled a lawsuit with Aptive Environmental early this year. The Utah-based pest control company sued the village in August 2018 after the village did not amend its legislation banning commercial solicitation. It called the ban a “flagrant violation of the First and Fourteenth Amendments,” according to court records.

In its settlement, Floral Park agreed to pay $15,000. It has since changed its code from a complete ban on commercial solicitation to one that requires the soliciting company to provide detailed information to obtain a license.

“The permit is a little more strict and a little more conducive to getting more information too so that we ensure the people walking around our village are people who we want here,” Mayor Dominick Longobardi said.

After receiving a letter from Aptive Environmental, the North Hills board decided the best route would be to eliminate regulations on solicitation from its code altogether, said Mayor Marvin Natiss.

“Rather than have them threaten a further lawsuit it was easier to repeal,” he said of the bill his board plans to discuss Wednesday.

Common issues in solicitation codes are curfews that ban solicitation during some of the only hours that residents are typically home and high license fees that act as a barrier rather than compensation for processing, Fielding said. 

The Village of Munsey Park Board of Trustees unanimously amended the “Peddling and Soliciting” section of its code last Wednesday, establishing a “do not knock” registry and limiting the time frame in which solicitation can occur.

The new version of the law distinguishes between charitable and commercial solicitation and requires that commercial solicitors obtain licenses from the village. The previous version was more restrictive, which was not up to current standards, said Mayor Lawrence Ceriello.

“We cannot prohibit solicitation and some solicitation, proselytizing, cannot be regulated at all, but commercial speech we can regulate,” he said.

The “do not knock” registry will include resident addresses and be provided to solicitors who will not be allowed to solicit on those properties. Residents may sign up online or in person at Village Hall, according to the law.

Solicitation is now limited to between 10 a.m. and 9 p.m. or 30 minutes after sunset,  whichever is earlier. It may not take place on Sundays.

Roslyn Estates is similarly creating a “do not solicit” list.

“[Aptive] has agreed to honor the wishes of all residents on a ‘Do Not Solicit’ list, which the Village will provide,” Mayor Paul Leone Peters wrote in a letter to residents dated July 8.

At the village’s Board of Trustees meeting on Monday, Michael P. Tomicich, the clerk and treasurer, said that 180 residents were on the list.

Janelle Clausen, Tom McCarthy and Rose Weldon contributed reporting.

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