The Fairhope City Council unanimously adopted an ordinance restricting the distribution of commercial handbills in an effort to strengthen the city’s control over the Gulf Coast Life advertising circular currently distributed by Alabama Media Group, which publishes the Mobile Press Register.

In the ordinance, a commercial handbill is described as any printed or written material that advertises sales on merchandise, products, commodities or directs attention to any business or commercial activity. The ordinance restricts materials that direct attention to or advertise any meeting, performance or exhibition or event for which an admission fee is charged for private gain. It also restricts the distribution of materials which are predominantly and essentially an advertisement.

The ordinance makes it illegal to throw or deposit any commercial or noncommercial handbill on a sidewalk, street or public place within the city. It bans the distribution of commercial or noncommercial handbills on private premises which are vacant or on private premises with “No Trespassing” or related signs posted. The practice is also banned in places where occupants have requested handbills not be delivered.

The ordinance allows for mail distribution and subscription publications to be delivered. Violators may face a citation from a Fairhope Police officer or designated city employee and may be punished with a $250 to $500 fine.

If the distributor of a commercial handbill maintains a list of those who have requested the handbill not be distributed to their premises, the distributor must provide a copy of the list to the City of Fairhope every 30 days. According to the ordinance, distributors will have 14 days to honor distribution refusal requests.

Mayor Tim Kant said the city cannot restrict free speech by limiting the distribution of a newspaper, but the handbills in question are mostly advertising, he said. The mayor said the city’s ordinance was patterned after a similar ordinance passed by the Mobile City Council in April.

“As long as they are not putting in news in the element we have a right to restrict it,” Kant said. “This is limiting marketing materials that litter our waterways.”

The Press-Register has provided a phone number to call to cancel the publication. It is 251-219-5015.

In other business, the council authorized Kant to execute a rental agreement with Global Rental Co. Inc. for a pressure digger auger truck to be used by the electric department for installation of lighting poles at the Manley Road soccer complex. The month long rental will cost $8,550.

The council also approved a resolution to award a four year lease-purchase bid for $99,800.28 for use of a back hoe for the water department to Spanish Fort-based Thompson Tractor Company Inc. The council approved a similar lease-purchase bid from the same company for a back hoe to be used by the gas department.

The council approved a three year lease-purchase agreement for a golf course mower and utility vehicles for $265,424.68 from Mobile-based Beard Equipment Company Inc. for the golf department.