Toms River acts to toughen its anti-soliciting law
Complaints from Toms River residents about being approached by real estate agents from nearby Lakewood to sell their homes has prompted the Township Council to introduce proposed changes to its existing anti-soliciting law.
Mayor Thomas F. Kelaher said some of the allegations include No-knock stickers being disregarded and homeowners being harassed or even threatened by unsolicited realtors, who have mainly been canvassing the North Dover section, located near Route 9 and the Garden State Parkway.
"The business administrator of the township is designated as a hearing officer who could listen and conduct a hearing to determine if in fact those circumstances are factually correct, and if they are, to make a report to the governing body, and the governing body could then pass an ordinance that would designate a cease and desist area, delineated in the ordinance based on the facts in the investigation, and within that delineated cease and desist order all of that type of conduct is absolutely prohibited and they're are penalties involved in that," Kelaher said.
No real estate soliciting would be allowed in the cease and desist zones for up to five years, according to the revised ordinance. It also restricts soliciting to between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and prohibits it on six major holidays, including Thanksgiving and Christmas.
The amendments approved on first reading Tuesday night came a day after a meeting with some 800 Toms River residents at one of the township's high schools to discuss residents' concerns about this issue, according to Kelaher. He said residents at that meeting were encouraged to form neighborhood watch groups as part of the solution to deterring crime.
Proposed changes to Toms River's Peddling and Soliciting Ordinance mirror that of a New York State law, according to Kelaher.
"It was challenged, it won at the trial level. The challenge went to the 2nd Circuit Federal Court of Appeals in New York. It was upheld. The challenge was taken to the United States Supreme Court. The Supreme Court refused to hear it, and so that law stands. The language of this ordinance is taken almost verbatim from that New York law," Kelaher said.
While Kelaher sympathizes with residents who feel afraid or intimidated, he urged those with "no-knock" stickers who have been solicited by realtors to report the incident to Township Police.
"The police now understand that that's a violation," he said. "They park in front of their houses with a van with 12 of these real estate guys and just stare at people. It's outrageous conduct and it's the conduct that we are attempting to regulate."
Permit applications to solicit or canvass for real estate in Toms River require detailed information, including a company name and specific streets.
Real estate solicitors have been seeking properties in Toms River, Jackson, and Howell in the wake of exploding population growth in Lakewood's Orthodox Jewish community.
A public hearing on the proposed changes to Toms River's anti-soliciting measure is set for at 6 p.m. Nov. 10.