Baltimore Co. Considers Restriction On Ad Fliers

July 06, 2009|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,Mary.gail.hare@baltsun.com

A Baltimore County councilman wants to curtail unsolicited advertising circulars, claiming the papers litter neighborhoods and can eventually clog area waterways.

Councilman John Olszewski has drafted a bill that prohibits circulars from being dropped off at homes in the county. The County Council is expected to vote Monday on the proposal. If passed, the law would take effect in 45 days. The law will not apply to U.S. Postal Service deliveries or those by a private mail service.

"Our streets and stream beds are denigrated with trash," he said. "We spend millions to clean up our waterways. This is just another small step in the right direction."

He would also ban fliers placed on vehicles, particularly in public parking lots. To demonstrate the extent of the problem, Mike Pierce, a Kingsville resident, took a thick stack of fliers, advertising a Towson insurance company, to a council work session last week. He had collected the circulars that same morning from windshields at the White Marsh park-and-ride, certain that the car owners would not object to the removal, he said.

"Many of these were wet and glued to windshields," he said, urging the council to support the bill. "The ink can stain the car's paint. We need this bill."

Olszewski would make an exception for fliers printed with a "conspicuous notice" that reads, "If you no longer wish to receive this publication, please call the following toll-free number." The disclaimer places responsibility for discontinuing the circulars on homeowners who may not want their property peppered with advertisements from local restaurants and businesses, he said.

Olszewski said he has heard from many constituents who will not patronize business that leave advertisements on their properties.

The county attorney's staff said it believes the proposal could withstand legal challenges. A similar measure, enacted in Baltimore City, has significantly cut down on litter, officials said.

Offenders, who could be the publisher of the circular, the advertiser or the deliverer, could face fines of up to $1,000.

"These circulars are being deposited on people's porches, sidewalks, fences and windshields," Olszewski said. "People don't pick these papers up, and they are finding their way into sewers and creeks. They are also going to vacant houses or where the residents are away on extended vacation making these homes a target for crime."

While he applauded the effort, Councilman Kevin Kamenetz expressed concerns with enforcing the law, a task that would fall to the county's Department of Permits and Development Management.

"I am not challenging the fact that there is a problem," Kamenetz said. "But can we enforce it?"

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