As many of you know, the Forsyth County Board of Commissioners recently voted to adopt proposed amendments to the Forsyth County Door-to-Door Solicitation Ordinance. Specifically, the amendments: (1) establish additional regulations regarding door-to-door solicitation; (2) provide for relevant definitions; (3) establish regulations regarding the distribution of flyers, leaflets, and other printed materials; and (4) repeal conflicting ordinances.

The Ordinance requires solicitors to obtain permits and wear badges on their shoulders if they wish to solicit door-to-door for the sale of goods or distribute commercial pamphlets. The Ordinance does not apply, however, to charitable organizations, nonprofits, or parents or students participating in school-sponsored fundraisers. Pamphlets and/or handbills related to religion or politics are also not regulated by the Ordinance.

The new provision that is most applicable to community associations is the one on “Entry on Private Property, Generally.” The section reads as follows: “If a ‘no soliciting’ sign is posted, no handbills shall be left on the property. Irrespective of whether an individual is a solicitor/canvasser, any person who distributes handbills on property containing a ‘no-soliciting’ sign shall be in violation of this ordinance and subject to citation.”

Commissioner Molly Cooper and Forsyth County Attorney Ken Jarrard stated the new language above means that “no solicitation” signs that are often placed in front of subdivisions would not apply to individual homes in that community. In other words, residents will be required to place individual “no solicitation” signs in front of their homes in order to prohibit solicitation. The updated Ordinance may be the start of a new trend as many surrounding counties, which have similar regulations on solicitation, begin to face pressure from First Amendment advocates.

It is still too early to know the overall effects of the updated Ordinance, but surely Forsyth County communities will see an uptick of yard signage in order to prevent solicitation. Some associations may already have relative use restrictions in place, but for those that do not, it is probably time to get ahead of the issue.