Council targets roadside solicitors

  • Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Lindsay Street/Gazette Berkeley County Council gave first reading to an ordinance that could curb roadside soliciting in unincorporated portions of the county.

At a stoplight in Sangaree, a group of men and women walk with buckets in hand. With friendly smiles, they approach car windows asking for change. The change, they say, is for the children.

But that activity worries some in unincorporated parts of Berkeley County outside the municipalities like Goose Creek or Summerville that have already halted solicitors at intersections. Berkeley County Council candidate and Sangaree resident Aldo Napoli brought the issue to council a month ago.

“It’s almost borderline harassment,” Napoli said during public comments. He later spoke via telephone with the newspaper. “It’s a big headache for everybody … something’s got to get done.”

Napoli is running for Sangaree’s District 4 seat against two others. Incumbent Cathy Davis announced earlier this month she will not seek reelection.

The county currently does not have an ordinance on the books prohibiting roadside solicitation.

During its March 24 regular meeting, council gave first reading to an ordinance that would prohibit roadside vending and soliciting activities directed at occupants of motor vehicles.

Councilman Tim Callanan said Berkeley County’s ordinance should allow for solicitors for nonprofits to be able to apply for a limited permit. Language of the ordinance has not yet been drafted, but county council’s attorney said it could mimic North Charleston’s strict ordinance, which has proven constitutionally sound.

“Anytime you start treading on someone else’s right to free speech you have to tread carefully,” council attorney Nicole Scott Ewing said.

During the committee meeting, Councilman Steve Davis objected to moving the ordinance out of committee. However, during the regular meeting he gave approval to first reading.

“It probably needs to be addressed but we have to be very, very careful,” Davis said. “A rat’s a nuisance too, but you still can’t kill all of them.”

The group soliciting in the Sangaree intersection at College Park Road and near Tractor Supply on 17-A say they are with New Life Ministries. The church is not affiliated with any churches in the area under the same name, according to an official with New Life Christian Fellowship in Goose Creek.

A quick web search of New Life Church shows the church is out of state, and its solicitations have come under fire in different states. Officials at S.C. Consumer Affairs are unaware whether or not this is a scam, though a group using the same name in other states has been labeled as a scam.

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