Wednesday town meeting: Scouts could sell cookies despite ‘door-to-door’ ban

Restrictions on door-to-door selling that are headed to a town meeting next week target door-knocking by professional salespeople, First Selectman Rudy Marconi said, not charitable solicitations or friendly neighborhood offers.

“We’re in no way looking to stop kids going door to door and shoveling a walk, or Girl Scouts selling cookies,” Marconi said.

Door-to-door sales restrictions are part of proposed revisions to the town’s peddlers ordinance, which will go to a public hearing and town meeting Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 7:30 in town hall. Also on the town meeting agenda are revisions to an ordinance establishing the duties of the town’s Pension Commission — changes written by members of the Pension Commission to make what’s spelled out in town ordinances better reflect the job they actually do.

Marconi’s assurances that snow-shoveling kids and cookie-selling scouts wouldn’t be made into outlaws came at the selectmen’s Nov. 13 meeting, in response to concerns raised by David Pope of Aspen Mill Road.

With his young son beside him at the meeting, Pope said that someday the lad will ask for money and be told to go out and earn it by shoveling driveways.

Pope said he’d read about the ordinance changes in The Press, and became concerned that the new law might make innocent, well-meaning enterprise illegal.

“Just don’t close the door,” he said.

He also envisioned a situation where a painter might finish up a day’s work on someone’s house, stroll over to knock on a neighbor’s door and offer a price estimate.

“I’m concerned for small businesses not able to market their goods and services,” he said.

Pope said he understood the concerns about privacy and safety that led the selectmen to propose limiting door-to-door selling.

“I get it. I just don’t think that’s the right approach,” he said.

A draft of the proposed revisions to the peddlers ordinance was presented to the selectmen by attorney Alexander Copp from Cohn and Wolfe, the town’s law firm.

Key portions of the statute as it would be revised include:

“The purpose of this article is to promote greater public safety, welfare, comfort and privacy and to inhibit and deter crime, potential consumer fraud and undue annoyance…

“Except as expressly set forth in this article, no person or entity shall peddle, vend, hawk or sell upon any town road or from house to house, not having been requested or invited to do so by the owner or owners, occupant or occupants, anywhere in the town, any goods, services, wares or merchandise, or any newspaper, magazine or other periodical subscription…”

Specific exemptions to the proposed law are enumerated:

“The provisions of this article shall not apply to the following:

“(1) Political canvassers as well as persons or entities duly authorized to act for and on behalf of any civic or religious organization, or on behalf of any organization that has been approved by the Board of Selectmen to come under exemption.

“(2) Sales by farmers and gardeners of the produce of their farms and gardens.

“(3) Food delivery services.

“(4) Mobile food service operations for parties held on private property located in residential and other housing zones…”

Selectman Steve Zemo wondered if some of the worries expressed might be unnecessary, given the reality that the ban on door-to-door sales would be enforced largely in response to citizens’ complaints.

“How many people,” he said, “are going to call up and say ‘There’s three sixth graders here that want to shovel snow?’”