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Rules apply to yard sales in Ceres
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With the nicer weather, we are seeing a lot of yard sale activity in Ceres, and most all other communities in the area. People have yard sales to clear out unwanted goods and raise some extra cash. These are a normal part of community life and for the most part, local governments have little concern about them, but there are some problems associated with them if the laws and ordinances governing them are not abided by. I hope this column educates and helps keep yard sale enthusiasts from drawing attention from code enforcement personnel.

The most common and obvious problem with yard sales is the posting of signs advertising them on public property. It is illegal to do so, and in many instances, people forget to pick them up afterwards. These signs end up as litter, and visual obstructions to traffic, so it is best to not use public property of any kind, including power poles, light poles, public sidewalks or traffic signs for displaying signs. It takes city crews a lot of time to remove the tape, staples, and nails that people use to affix their signs to the poles. Last year, for example, some 300 hours of city employee time was used to remove tape, staples and nails from publicly owned poles.

Another problem that arises in the community is the "permanent" yard sales, where the sale continues throughout the year. This ends up annoying neighbors, amounts to a zoning violation and is not fair to taxpaying businesses in the area. Most cities require a permit to help thwart the "de facto" yard sale businesses that have sprung up during recent years. In Ceres, for example, a yard sale permit can be obtained for $5, and residents can have two yard sales per 12-month period.

One of the less common problems, but serious nonetheless, is that some yard sales involve people selling stolen property, which the permit system helps control. We are also seeing instances of people, in effect, operating a retail sales outlet in front of their house. They buy new products specifically to be sold at their "yard sale," which is technically not a yard sale at all. Such activities require a business license and should be limited to areas specifically zoned for retail sales.

Parking problems also occur at some of the busier yard sale sites. While this is not the fault of the yard sale host, it does cause problems when visitors block driveways, park in front of fire hydrants or double-park on the street. This requires the yard sale host to do what they can to eliminate the problem. When reasonable efforts fail, it is advisable to call the police for their assistance.

Finally, there has been a trend with people placing their items for sale on the sidewalk, and in some instances, on the street. This is a problem for several reasons, and like the other violations associated with it, if enforcement personnel observe it or otherwise receive complaints, there will likely be citations issued.

Yard sales are fun and can be productive for sellers and buyers alike. By following these common sense rules that protect the interests of all involved, we can keep yard sale activity in our community as safe as possible.