Up until now, residents hosting garage sales really only had to follow two simple laws: 1. keep it in the backyard, 2. sell only household goods, furnishings or personal effects.
It was a gloriously simple formula that allowed citizens to enjoy the least regulated garage sale community in the area.
Those days appear to be just about over as the City Council is close to approving tighter garage sale restrictions consistent with others held by nearby cities.
No legal ability to curtail garage sale abuses
The need to revise the city’s garage sale regulations became apparent in early May when, according to Law Director Kevin Butler, one of the top men in the Division of Housing and Building found himself unable to clearly address garage sale complaints.
The administration had some general ground rules, but nothing that would hold up in court.
Resident peeved by neighbor’s non-stop garage sales
Although the city doesn’t track garage sale complaints, one recurring irritation mentioned by Director Butler is a very small number of residents who run continuous weekly garage sales.
At a committee meeting earlier this month, Parkside Drive homeowners Tom and Joann Callahan shared their unpleasant experience of living next to someone who frequently puts as many as 25 bicycles in the front yard for sale.
“It’s a joke,” Mr. Callahan said.
“They’re using it for a commercial purpose,” Mrs. Callahan said. “I try to be a good neighbor, but I’ve just had it.
Latest revisions set a range of new standards
The Housing Committee gathered for 90 minutes on Monday to iron out the fine points of the proposed ordinance which will probably go before the full Council for a final vote at its next meeting in September.
The major changes:
Frequency of sale limit: Three garage sales per property, per year
Length of sale limit: Three consecutive days (since garage sales traditionally begin on Thursday, this essentially means no Sunday sales.)
Hours of sale limit: Between 8:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Signage limit: Five signs; must be five-square-feet or smaller; not permitted on front porches or utility poles; must be removed within six hours after conclusion of sale
The permissible locations and contents of garage sales mostly stay the same. People who can’t reasonably operate a sale out of their backyard can get permission to run it in the front or side yard.
And be careful about that last one, a councilperson admitted to calling the police on his two neighbors who set up in the front yard. They were forced to relocate to the rear.
Has Council nothing better to do?
The ordinance, if passed, will be policed by the Division of Building and Housing. More than anything else, the law will set clear standards and discourage neighborhood discord.
Reasonable people have wondered if the time and attention the Council has given to this matter suggests a certain loss of focus and misplaced priorities.
Law Director Butler disagrees.
“This is not intended to invite additional bureaucracy,” Butler said during a committee meeting. “It’s important to those people who live next to these habitual flea markets.”
“I don’t think this is an overreach,” the one-time Ward 1 councilperson added. “[It's] to preserve the residential feel of a neighborhood.”
Finance director sleeping well at night
Also on Monday, Finance Director Jennifer Pae presented the Finance Committee with a quick mid-year update on the status of the city’s general fund revenue projections. On the whole, everything is on track. When asked if anything was keeping her up at night, she replied, “Not at this point.”
You can see her overview here. [see .PDF].
- “The forecast for the remainder of 2012 generally remains positive. Income taxes are anticipated to meet 2012 expectations. Intergovernmental revenues are on track to meet estimated budget.”
- Total tax collections through June 2012 are up $198,655 versus last year. “All categories have experienced significant increases compared to our lows in 2010 illustrating the local economy is recovering and collecting the most revenue since leaving RITA in 2005. The quarterly tax billings of July and October will be significant indicators for 2013 estimated revenues.”
- Estate taxes: “Total collections through June 30th and amounts to be distributed later this year will be in excess of $950,000 or $250,000 above 2012 estimates.” The highest level was $1.7 million in 2010, after former Cleveland Indians owners Dick Jacobs passed away. The estate tax will be eliminated effective Jan. 1, 2013.
- 2013 property tax estimates: “The County Fiscal Officer estimates an average decline in real property values for 2013 will be 3.6%. The Finance department is estimating an additional decline of .4% in 2013 due to property value adjustments and current collection rate for a total reduction of 4.0%
- Fire Department overtime is trending lower each year and Police Department overtime is on target. In response to a query from Ward 4 Councilperson Mary Louis Madigan about some rumblings she’d heard about the level of OT in the Fire Dept., Pae responded, “There’s budgeted overtime and it’s managed properly.”