Madison rejects door-to-door rule change proposal

Church and charitable groups are not exempt from the requirement that neighborhood restrictions be obeyed.
Church and charitable groups are not exempt from the requirement that neighborhood restrictions be obeyed.

MADISON, AL (WAFF) - The Madison City Council delivered disappointment Monday to parents and supporters hoping for more leeway to solicit donations door-to-door in support of area schools and charities.

Boosters for local sports teams have called for changes to the city's law.

In Madison, anyone seeking to go door to door selling anything or asking for donations must apply for a city permit and is restricted to certain hours.  The law is meant to protect homeowners from intrusive and sometimes aggressive door to door peddlers selling everything from meat to roofing to insurance officials said.

Church and charitable groups are exempt, but not from the requirement that neighborhood restrictions on solicitation be obeyed.  Many Madison subdivisions and homeowners associations prohibit soliciting.

Fundraisers for James Clemens High School asked the city council to amend the ordinance to exclude charitable groups and youth fundraisers from those restrictions but city leaders have said making such an exception would amount to discrimination for which the city could be sued.

"Most of the homeowners' associations we talked with said that the intent with these policies was to prevent an onslaught of salesman coming in to sell vacuum cleaners or whatever. They never thought they were actually preventing students who live in their neighborhoods from being able to fundraise door-to-door," said Clemens Band Boosters member Amy West.

However, city leaders said during Monday's session that now was not the time for such a change to the current ordinance.

"There is not any good way to change the ordinance at this point," said Council President Tommy Overcash, referring to the original 2007 language that prohibits solicitation.

"If we open it up for Madison City Schools, what if the Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts or Little League Soccer... it just keeps on going," said Overcash.

"This ordinance does far more good than harm. It's my home, my castle. I can let somebody cross the moat if I want to, or I can close the drawbridge if I want to. Our ordinance allows the homeowner to be able to open or close his drawbridge," said council member Mike Potter.

City council members said they talked with their legal experts, and if they were going to let community groups solicit, they would have to let every other organization or entity as well.

Fundraising groups said they are annoyed that the rule does not apply to politicians going door-to-door, but it also does not apply to door-to-door preachers or anyone else who isn't actually asking for money.

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