Clinton Township Board of Trustees postpones ordinance enactment regarding unsolicited newspapers

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published May 12, 2021

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Clinton Township’s ordinance pertaining to the regulation of the delivery of unsolicited newspapers has been tabled.

At the Board of Trustees’ April 26 meeting, Township Clerk Kim Meltzer made the motion to postpone the enacting of the ordinance as a way to wait and see how newspaper publishers respond to the concerns of residents and officials.

The board unanimously voted to postpone.

Meltzer originally brought the agenda item forward on April 12. She introduced the ordinance on the basis of receiving myriad complaints from residents over the years in regard to unsolicited newspapers creating a nuisance in the community due to unwanted deliveries to residents’ driveways; increasing potential weather-based safety hazards, such as clogging machinery like snowblowers; and increasing litter in various neighborhoods.

After originally working with Township Attorney Jack Dolan to devise language to put a check on newspapers in question that tend to be delivered not via mailboxes, she pulled back April 26.

However, she said the drafted language within the ordinance should be kept “in the ready” in case companies continue not to adapt or comply. The ordinance becomes unnecessary, she added, if the situation is remedied.

“If they fail to do so, or if they do so and go back on that, we always have this language available for us,” she told the board.

As currently written, the ordinance identifies unsolicited materials as commercial paper material delivered through means other than the U.S. Postal Service, such as advertising. The term “unsolicited” refers to papers never originally wanted or requested by a property owner or occupant, but are still delivered.

The ordinance language stipulates permitted locations for delivery, including attached to doors of front porches, front door handles, mail slots that are part of doors, places between permanent doors and storm or screen doors, and distribution boxes specially designed for receiving commercial material.

Fines from infraction run from a minimum of $25 to a maximum fine of $500.

Dolan said April 26 that the board was faced with a difficult decision due to voting on an issue that determines how media is presented to the public. He mentioned the dichotomy between younger and older populations and how they consume news.

“We’ve dealt with this issue for many years. … As time has gone on, there has been a shift away from printed material to electronic material,” Dolan said, adding that a “significant portion of our population, mainly seniors” rely on print mediums.

He said the fact that some people don’t like having printed material delivered has exacerbated the situation, and that officials “need to sit back and take a moment and recognize” that there is a transition occurring.

Giving media companies an opportunity to reach a satisfactory resolution is a good idea, he added, while still offering residents an open channel of communication on the topic.

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