City police enforcing yard sale rules

Tom Joyce Staff Reporter

September 1, 2013

Holding a yard sale can be a way to bring in extra cash, but Mount Airy residents should be advised that city police are on the lookout for violations related to that practice.

The main problems relate to yard sale signs, according to Police Dale Watson. Those holding yard sales are prohibited from placing signs on utility poles or in the right of way along a street or road, he said.

‘They need to be on private property,” Watson said. “You need to have the property owner’s permission.”

Illegally placed signs can present problems for motorists. “We need the right of ways clear for a variety of reasons, particularly the vision obstruction,” the police chief explained. The right of way is generally the area just off the surface of the road.

In addition to other problems, there is an appearance issue involved, according to the police chief.

“Some of them are not all that aesthetically pleasing,” Watson said. “They’re not too good to look at, really.”

He added: “We want to keep our city looking neat.”

Officers don’t make a habit of issuing citations against yard sale operators who break the rules.

“When we find violations, we just talk to those who are in non-compliance,” the police chief said, describing the process as more educational than punitive.

Officers who find signs in violation sometimes take them down, while in other cases the yard-sale operators do so, Watson said.

There have been multiple reports recently of police involvement with yard sales linked to rules violations. However, the chief said this reflects normal monitoring and is not reflective of any crackdown or stepped-up enforcement efforts.

“It is complaint-driven,” Watson said.

Sales Limited

In addition to violations related to sign placement, those holding yard sales also are restricted to the number of sales they can have.

A homeowner may hold a yard sale no more than six days in one year, according to the police chief. “That’s typically what the ordinance stipulates,” he said of the city measure governing the sales. This means someone could hold a two-day sale three times per year.

Non-profit organizations are allowed to have yard sales up to 14 days per year, Watson said

The time limits are aimed at discouraging what some officials have called “perpetual” yard sales.

Among other reasons for the time limits, appearance can be a consideration with items strewn all over a site, and the extra traffic sales draw can affect safety or be a nuisance for neighbors.

The Mount Airy Board of Commissioners discussed yard-sale regulations during a meeting in July 2012, which included how far the municipality should take its enforcement measures.

While there was concern for not adding to the workload of police or planning department personnel, Commissioner Jon Cawley said it would be pointless to have rules on the books and not ensure they were obeyed.

Those with questions about yard-sale rules may call the police station for guidance, Watson said.

Meanwhile, the chief said sale activity is more prevalent than ever.

“There has been an increase in recent years of yard sales,” Watson said.

“I have noticed more — it seems like every weekend you go out, they are numerous. There’s no shortage of yard sales, that’s for sure.”

Reach Tom Joyce at 719-1924 or