Columbus reviews peddler, loitering ordinance drafts

Published 9:59 am Thursday, April 28, 2011

The Town of Columbus is one step closer to strengthening its peddler/vendor ordinance and creating new ordinances for loitering and temporary living facilities or camping on public property.
Town council met Thursday, April 21 and reviewed recommended drafts of the new ordinance from staff.
Columbus Police Chief Chris Beddingfield told the town last month his officers have no way of dealing with recent loitering problems as well as instances where homeless or other people camp out on public property. Council has also expressed concern recently over peddlers selling products in town, which they feel hurts local businesses that pay taxes.
Council has decided it wants to prohibit any door-to-door commercial sales. The town will still allow fundraising projects door-to-door, such as for youth and civic groups.
Council discussed last week whether to prohibit religious entities and political candidates from going door-to-door, but decided not to prohibit those door-to-door encounters. The town may instead require political candidates to receive a card from town hall once they file for elections to prove to residents they are legitimate and allow door-to-door contacts only for a couple of months during election time.
“I wouldn’t be here [on the council] if I didn’t go door-to-door,” said councilman Michael Gage.
Others mentioned former councilwoman Becky Rome, who was said to have gone to every resident’s house in the town during one of her elections.
Gage and councilwoman Ernie Kan said they met a lot of people by going door-to-door.
“I don’t care who comes and knocks on my door and don’t see why we should prohibit them,” said councilman Richard Hall. “Are we making our citizens afraid to go knock on their neighbor’s door?”
The town is considering how to strengthen its current peddler/vendor ordinance. Some of the changes under consideration include whether to require a peddler to obtain a permit one week prior to selling products and whether to require peddlers to state if they have been convicted of a crime.
The town is also considering whether to subject peddlers to the town’s privilege license tax, which current merchants are required to pay. Non-profit organizations, vendors for festivals and gatherings such as the farmer’s market are proposed to be exempt from the ordinance.
The town is also considering creating new ordinances for loitering and temporary living facilities.
The loitering ordinance draft states that it shall be unlawful for any person to stand alone or congregate with other persons on any street or sidewalk or public place within the town limits with the intent to obstruct any public street, highway, sidewalk or other public place or building or obstruct the entrance of any business. The ordinance will allow the police to order the person or persons to move. Persons who fail to obey police orders will be guilty of a misdemeanor criminal violation. The ordinance will not prohibit free speech.
The temporary living facility draft ordinance prohibits camping on public property. The draft exempts gatherings such as festivals or other events for which the town has granted permission.
Town council plans to consider the new and amended ordinances next month.

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