Riverview ordinance aimed at unsolicited printed littering lawns, roads

Photo by Sue Suchyta City Attorney Randall Pentiuk (left), City Councilmen Dean Workman and James Trombley, City Manager Doug Drysdale, Mayor Andrew Swift, Councilmen Bill Towle and Tom Coffey and Councilwoman Lynn Blanchette discuss a proposed unsolicited printed matter ordinance at the Sept. 5 study session, which they later adopted at the city council meeting.

Photo by Sue Suchyta
City Attorney Randall Pentiuk (left), City Councilmen Dean Workman and James Trombley, City Manager Doug Drysdale, Mayor Andrew Swift, Councilmen Bill Towle and Tom Coffey and Councilwoman Lynn Blanchette discuss a proposed unsolicited printed matter ordinance at the Sept. 5 study session, which they later adopted at the city council meeting.

 

City redefines litter

By SUE SUCHYTA
Sunday Times Newspapers

RIVERVIEW – For a city’s that depends on trash to fund its budget, there is irony in its new ordinance defining “unsolicited printed matter” left on lawns, driveways and roads as litter.

The resolution, discussed during a Sept. 5 study session and passed during the City Council meeting following it, defines “unsolicited printed matter,” such as newspapers, handbills and campaign fliers that are left on driveways, lawns and roadways as litter and subject to fine.

The ordinance, which passed unanimously, states that materials must be place on a porch, affixed to a front door or placed between the screen and storm door.

Papers that land on the lawn, bushes, roof or roadway could cost the distributor a fine.

Residents complained in the past about nighttime newspaper deliveries, dominated by advertising sections, that were tossed on lawns and driveways by passing trucks, and which often ended up blowing away and creating a litter problem.

The Detroit Free Press, which had delivery contractors threatened with fines last year, issued a stern response, which prompted city officials to redefine its litter laws.

City Attorney Randall Pentiuk said Riverview’s ordinance is not based on any other city’s ordinance, and was written to address the concerns of residents. He said he is concerned about any challenges the city may face from parties stating the law violates freedom of the press.

Pentiuk said ordinance officers won’t go around looking for violations, and will respond to violations at the initiation of resident complaints.

“The resident will carry the water on the prosecution,” Pentiuk said.

Mayor Andrew Swift asked whether the city could be the complainant if matter like newspapers ended up in a city street.

“It is fraught with First Amendment issues that we are working with other communities on,” Pentiuk said. “We have formed our own little small task force of concerned communities. We want to get this (ordinance) in place and see what happens and branch out from there.”

Pentiuk said another community was sued and settled, but Riverview to date has not been a party to litter litigation.

“We are creating something the other community did not have,” Pentiuk said.

Councilman Bill Towle asked how much the city was willing to spend on litigation if the matter ended up in court.

Pentiuk said he did not know what court costs would be and it was something he did not want to speculate about yet.

“I do know there are some other folks looking at being proactive on behalf of residents — not communities but residents — going after this purveyor of free speech,” Pentiuk said, making an air quote gesture with his hands as he ended his sentence.

Pentiuk said he modeled the city’s ordinance on one Ann Arbor has, and it has not had any legal challenges brought against its ordinance.

“If we are the defendant in a lawsuit like another city was, we will be the one that is named, whether others adopt the same ordinance, or Ann Arbor gets sued,” Pentiuk said. “We will have to see.”

Pentiuk said solicited materials would not be subject to the same placement conditions as unsolicited printed material.

(Sue Suchyta can be reached at sue.suchyta@yahoo.com.)