Georgetown officials say they want to put a stop to out-of-towners selling used goods and other knick-knacks on property that does not belong to them.
Yet a proposal that seeks to rid the town of fly-by-night roadside proprietors has come under fire from town residents who say the changes would adversely impact the small town tradition of family yard sales.
“We’ve received a considerable number of comments from the community, but I can assure you, our intent is not to penalize property owners,” Town Manager Gene Dvornick told town council members prior to last week’s introduction of the proposed ordinance, which would, for the first time, require Georgetown residents to purchase $10 yard sale permits.
Under the current proposal, those permits would be good for no more than two consecutive days, and no more than two permits would be issued to any one person within a 12-month period.
The proposed ordinance also would limit yard sales to residential properties within the hours of 7 a.m. and sunset, while barring them entirely on vacant and commercial lots.
Only two signs, each measuring less than 4 square feet, could be used to advertise yard sales, and those signs only would be allowed on the property where the sale would be taking place. Yard sale advertisements would be barred from utility poles and other public property.
Violations of the proposed ordinance would result in a $50 fine.
Although the proposed ordinance could come up for a final vote as early as Feb. 27, Georgetown Mayor Mike Wyatt said he expects the measure will undergo several changes before being adopted.
“This is a work in progress, and I don’t think we’re there just yet,” he said. “I don’t want to do anything that’s going to stop any person from having a yard sale on their property, because it’s their property. But when you set up a blanket on someone else’s property week after week, it’s a thrift store business, and that’s what we’re trying to stop.”
Wyatt and other town officials have said the intent of the proposal is to put a stop to the handful of people who routinely sell items along the entrance to the Georgetown Little League ball fields off East Market Street, just south of the Georgetown Square shopping center.
“It’s an unsightly thing to look at and doesn’t speak well for the town,” Wyatt said. “And when they’re doing it every weekend, I see it as a business that’s not paying rent or taxes or purchasing a business license from the town.”
Several town council members have questioned whether the proposed yard sale ordinance could end up creating more problems than it solves.
“My problem with the whole ordinance is that it’s punishing the whole town for two or three people who abuse the rules,” Town Councilwoman Sue Barlow said last week. “We have wonderful community wide yard sales that we want to preserve, and I feel its penalizing them when you require permits and charge a fee. I don’t think that’s going to sit well with homeowners and taxpayers.”
Councilman Bill West agreed, adding that community yard sales are beneficial to residents and town government.
“It’s a way for the residents to bring a little extra cash into the community,” he said. “And if we don’t allow people to have yard sales, it’s just going to increase the amount of trash that has to be hauled away.”
OTHER PROPOSED ORDINANCES
Georgetown Town Council could vote Feb. 27 on three other ordinances also introduced last week.
The following is a synopsis of those proposals and the issues they’re intended to address:
This proposal seeks to clarify the town’s existing “clean hands” law, which bars Georgetown from granting business licenses, building permits and certain land use approvals to anyone who owes the town unpaid taxes or other obligations.
Specifically, the measure would extend those rules to business entities, including limited liability corporations owned or co-owned by a person with unpaid taxes or other similar outstanding obligations.
The town’s current law requires all property owners seeking a demolition permit to pay a $125 fee and submit an application to the town planning office that includes considerable paperwork, regardless of whether the structure is a three-story house or a backyard shed.
The proposed amendments would allow the town manager to waive the fee and other application requirements for small demolition projections.
The town’s code currently does not regulate “electronic changing message signs,” including those typically used by banks to display the time and temperature or more advanced signs that incorporate animations.
The proposed ordinance would add definitions of those signs, while limiting their size, colors, transition frequencies, brightness and proximity to residential zones.
Town council members have discussed barring electronic signs from Georgetown’s historic area altogether, although that restriction is not currently part of the proposed law.