Town leaders are considering a measure that would require charitable groups such as churches and volunteer organizations to apply for a permit to solicit donations on streets in the town of Clover.
A divided Clover Town Council gave preliminary approval to the measure last week after a discussion that included how to enforce the measure and what requirements should be included. A second vote of approval is required before the measure would become law.
Council member Debbie Littlejohn, who opposed the proposal with Mayor Donnie Grice, said the measure would take away from Clover’s “small-town feel” and could hurt church groups that raise money by seeking donations.
“This is a perfect example of government sticking its foot into something that they need to leave alone,” Grice said before the vote. He added: “I don’t know how enforceable it’s going to be.”
Councilman Jay Dover said the measure is intended to protect citizens. Dover and other council members said they worried about children who could be hit by traffic as they try to collect money from drivers.
Councilman Todd Blanton agreed with Dover, saying he has received complaints about people stopping cars in the town to ask for donations and children running into the street.
“I think the residents of Clover will really appreciate some type of scrutiny of what is going on,” Blanton said. He added: “At least we’re taking some reasonable care for the safety of folks out there.”
Under the measure approved by the council, a charitable group would need to apply for a permit with the Clover Police Department at least five days before the solicitation date. Solicitations would only be allowed at two spots: Main, Bethel and Kings Mountain streets and Bethel, Clinton and Sumter streets.
Permits would only be granted to South Carolina groups, under the proposal. Town Council members said some groups from Gastonia, N.C., have been coming to Clover to ask for donations.
The proposal was drafted by Town Manager Allison Harvey and Town Attorney Al Haselden after some council members raised concerns about safety issues related to such solicitations.
The measure approved by the council lists about a dozen requirements for permit holders, including that all participants be at least 16 or accompanied by an adult age 21 or older; that all wear a high-visibility vest; and that solicitation only be held during daylight hours.
The proposal also stipulates that participants may only approach vehicles that are stopped; that they “not cause a distraction to motorists”; that they “not impede pedestrian traffic”; and that the organization must hold up at least one 4-foot-square sign at all times that displays the name of the group.
It also said the town is not responsible for any injury or damage that results.
During the discussion on enforcement, several Town Council members asked for input from Police Chief Randy Grice, who said that enforcing the measure would be difficult.
“It’d be hard,” Grice said, adding that the only way to know if participants are violating the measure would be to have an officer sit and watch them.
Mayor Donnie Grice, the brother of the police chief, illustrated some of the issues associated with the measure by asking how the town would try to enforce the age requirement. He asked: “Will people have to carry an ID?”
Councilman Wes Spurrier, who also supported the measure, said he didn’t expect the need for “that level of scrutiny” to enforce the measure. However, “there needs to be some level of structure,” Spurrier said.
“It’s completely out of hand,” Spurrier said about the solicitation.
Donnie Grice also said the measure might hurt some local groups’ efforts to raise money. “There are some churches that are smaller, and they want to send their kids on a mission trip, and that’s their only means of raising money to do that.”
Spurrier responded: “And we want them to do that safely.”