Arlington citizens reject proposed garage sale rules at Town Hall

A majority of citizens at a Town Hall meeting seemed to reject rules which would restrict garage sales

  • Arlington residents seemed skeptical of a proposed ordinance which would regulate garage sales if passed
    Arlington residents seemed skeptical of a proposed ordinance which would regulate garage sales if passed
Karen Gavis

About 70 residents filed into Arlington’s City Hall to wrangle mainly over a proposed ordinance that could place restrictions on neighborhood garage sales.

Arlington Code Compliance Director Mike Bass led the meeting, which got underway at 6 p.m. Monday.

“It is all about citizen input,” Bass said. “Our ultimate goal is going to be compliance.”

Bass stressed that the meeting was not a formal adoption of an ordinance. And by meeting’s end, his call for a show of hands in support of the garage sale regulations yielded 13 votes.

The need to adopt the ordinance arose from neighborhood complaints, Bass said. And if put into action as written, residents would be limited to two sales per year and allowed to erect one sign which must be placed on site and 10 feet inside the curb.

In addition, a no-cost permit would be required. Any violations of the code could result in a misdemeanor $500 fine each day the garage sale is not in compliance.

The proposal was recommended by the Municipal Policy committee, whom Bass deferred to name until the next council session. It is supported by East Arlington Renewal whose president, Sue Phillips, has said that continuous garage sales operating as a business create quality of life issues and devalues property.

Newly-elected District 3 Councilwoman Roxanne Thalman, who attended the meeting, said earlier Monday such situations are relatively few across the city, and the public meeting was set up just to gauge citizen opinion. The preliminary response prior to the meeting, Thalman said, had not been too favorable.

“It is not something the council has pushed for,” she said, adding that she would not support the garage sale code proposal, if it came before the Council.

An early draft of the proposed ordinance had angered some residents with a clause that would allow for code compliance and peace officers to enter a property to inspect that the sale complies with the permit. Furthermore, if entry was denied, a warrant could be obtained.

During the meeting, Bass said that section of the proposal would be removed. However, that did not stop resident Rachel Reynolds from quoting the Fourth Amendment of the Constitution, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures of one’s property without probable cause, while she held the microphone.

The section had also seemed like overreach to Troy Wynne, who attended the public meeting specifically for the garage sale discussion.

Wynne, who has lived in Arlington for 48 years, said much of the wordage of the proposal seemed unclear. For instance, an online version of the proposal stated “sale of food items not permitted” and Wynne was concerned that since there was no mention of prepackaged foods that Girls Scouts would not be allowed to sell their leftover boxes of cookies.

Senior City Attorney Galen Gatten wrote in an email that homemade, non-hazardous, baked items that are exempted under the Texas Cottage Food Law would still be allowed in accordance with state law. However, during the public meeting, Bass and Field Operations Manager James Triplett said they could go stricter than the state level, if they wished. When asked if they would in fact go stricter than the Texas Cottage Food Law which allows the sale of baked items from a residence with few restrictions, Bass said he would need to speak with the city attorney’s office, but suggested the section may need to be reworded.

Others were worried that the proposal, as written, would make Tupperware and Mary Kay partygoers subject to code enforcement citations. A Facebook comment about the traffic congestion caused by neighborhood garages sales even sparked a suggestion to ban neighborhood birthday parties as well.

Another man viewed the proposal as a “solution in search of a problem” and recommended that people may just need to start dealing with their neighbors more.

Although Bass displayed a chart of all the surrounding cities that regulate garage sales, several people mentioned that Arlington had been voted Best Big City in the South -- garage sales and all.

“I don’t understand punishing the 99 percent of the people who aren’t being a nuisance,” said resident Lynn Sanders.

Delores Sherrard who lives in Burleson where permits are required, posted on Facebook that the requirement “does have its down side, but it also stops people from running a junk store out of their garage [or] driveway every weekend.”

Bass said the proposed ordinance will go back to the Municipal Policy committee for revisions before it's presented to the City Council.