The Dearing Town Council is taking a second look at guidelines for yard sales after more than a dozen residents converged on town hall Monday night for the council's regular meeting.
"I am glad people actually showed up for our meeting," Councilman Kristopher Wells said. "We need this more often. We want people to get involved with what we are doing."
Last month, the Dearing Town Council set up an ordinance to regulate on-going yard sales in an effort to clean up the town and prevent traffic jams. The second reading - and subsequent final approval - was set for Monday night, but officials delayed approval to work on issues including the number of yard sales allowed, the times of clean up, forbidding yard sales on Sundays, and the application process, since the town clerk only works one day each week.
"I completely see both sides of this, and it can't be approved tonight," said Mayor Sean Kelley. "We need to make some amendments."
The initial draft of the ordinance - reported on last month by The McDuffie Mirror -requires all persons to file an application for a permit before having a yard sale, list the location and date of the proposed sale and the addresses of all persons contributing property to the sale. The permit is valid for one day, except in the case of rain, and no more than four permits shall be issued per calendar year. The ordinance also requires that all yard sale items be removed from view by 6 p.m. that same day and ample parking space must be provided. The first reading of the ordinance at the March monthly meeting required a $10 fee with each application, but the mayor lowered that amount to $5.
"Well, I don't like it," Sadie Kitchens said. "I think you are infringing on my civil rights. I think what I do on my property is my business. ... It's a free country, and I think you are taking away my rights."
Councilman Wells responded to Ms. Kitchens' complaint saying that the governments, whether state or local, have a say on what citizens do on their property in order to protect everybody's rights. Mr. Wells used the example of pet owners being required to keep their animals inside a fenced area.
Mayor Kelley said he "never even considered" that he was infringing on anyone's rights; he just wants a clean town. The Mayor said people "don't go on implications anymore. It's got to be in black and white."
"You can do anything you want to do in your yard," Councilman Allen Axon said. "But when you open it up to the public, then it becomes a business. And we are trying to prevent businesses in the yard."
The yard sale rules were spurred by complaints about sales at a home on South Main Street, said Mayor Kelley. There, regular yard sales cause traffic jams, and he is afraid an accident is going to happen. Each council member also said they have driven by the site and agree it is an issue.
Yvonne McGahee - who is buying the house on South Main and holding the yard sales causing the issue - attended the meeting Monday, where she apologized to those in attendance.
"I am the reason they did all this," she said. "I feel bad that everybody else has to pay."
In an interview after the meeting, Mrs. McGahee said she is "a junker," but she didn't realize the yard sales were a problem. Mrs. McGahee, who is disabled, said the yard sales provide extra income to help support her four children, ages 11-15.
And she said the issue is really nothing more than a dispute between her and a neighbor who had complained about the sales.
"We are all neighbors," she said. "We could've talked about it and fixed it."
But the issue is deeper than that, according to city council members. They said Mrs. McGahee leaves several items in her yard on a regular basis, a claim she disputes.
"Nobody loves a yard sale more than I do," Councilwoman Daisy Ansley said. "We're not trying to tell people they can't have (one). ... But have your yard sale, enjoy your yard sale, and clean up your yard sale."
Since hearing of the ordinance, Mrs. McGahee said she has not had any more yard sales, and she never will.
Daniel Cason, who attended the meeting with his wife, Louise, said he understood the problem, but wonders why the council didn't deal with the individual rather than imposing on the city as a whole.
"It was a reactionary type thing," Mayor Kelley said. "But at the same time, the same situation could happen at any other house in Dearing at any time, and it needs to be a situation that we can handle."