Gilbert Town Council members on Tuesday raised concerns about the penalty for a proposed restriction on door fliers.
Council members, at the first of three planned public hearings on the proposed ordinance, debated whether to change the proposal, which would make it a Class One misdemeanor for businesses that leave handbills on the doors of residents with a no trespassing or no soliciting sign more than three times in one year.
The misdemeanor would be punishable by up to $2,500 in fines and six months in jail.
“We don’t need to have any incarceration for it,” Vice Mayor Steve Urie said. “I think that’s a little heavy handed.”
Councilman Don Skousen, who originally proposed the ordinance more than two years ago and worked in recent weeks with Councilwoman Joan Krueger and town officials and business representatives to draw up the proposal, agreed that a change could be needed to instead impose only civil fines.
But Skousen, a former judge, added that many town ordinances allow for misdemeanors, and judges almost never impose the jail time.
Skousen also suggested that two warnings are enough for businesses to comply before being cited by a code compliance officer.
The current proposal calls for three warnings before a business is cited for leaving a flier at the same house in a year, if that house has a no trespassing or no soliciting sign. The ordinance also restricts ringing the doorbell or knocking on the doors of homes with signs that are visible from the street.
Town attorney Susan Goodwin said the ordinance as proposed would restrict all soliciting, including from religious and nonprofit groups and politicians, which concerned some council members.
“I’m concerned about anything that would restrict free speech,” Mayor Steve Berman said.
The town is working on an amendment that would allow utility companies or mail companies to leave notices on the door that are official business and not solicitation.
One resident who attended the hearing urged the council to implement a total ban against the fliers.
“I have lived in eight different communities in three different states in my life, and I have never had the trouble that we have here in Gilbert,” Trudy Sieveking said. “I’m really disappointed with Gilbert. It’s a great city to live in for all sorts of reasons. But this is really an annoyance.”