2014-04-03 / Front Page

Garage sale limitations?

Planning commission gives stamp of approval to decree

MANISTIQUE – An ordinance limiting the number of hours a garage sale can conduct business each year has been approved by the Schoolcraft County Planning Commission. The regulation will now head to the Schoolcraft County Board of Commissioners for consideration.

According to Schoolcraft County Zoning Administrator Jake Rivard, section 102 of the Schoolcraft County Zoning Ordinance has been in development since last summer, when a nuisance flea market brought to light the need for such an ordinance.

“It’s one of those things when one person kind of ruins it for everybody,” he said. “This was put together, hopefully, to eliminate having a garage sale that goes on and on for three months straight.”

The ordinance defines specific uses for garage, yard, moving, rummage, and lawn sales.

Rivard noted the ordinance is essentially dealing with blight issue, and is meant to weed out excessive ongoing summer sales by limiting the total number of “open hours” to 48 per calendar year. He explained this would give someone who wants to hold a sale for six hours a day, eight days to conduct that sale throughout the summer.

“There are a few exceptions,” he said. “If you wanted to sell an automobile, camper, boat, snowblower or anything like that, there are no restrictions on anything like that.”

The ordinance specifically prohibits the resale of new items or wholesale merchandise and on-site signs of more that six square feet. It also states that the homeowner must provide adequate parking and that the single items, such as an automobile, may only be displayed for 180 calendar days.

During the public comment portion of the meeting, which took place last week, Schoolcraft County Commissioner Al Grimm questioned how such an ordinance would be enforced. Rivard explained he would handle any complaints, as the ordinance would become part of the county’s zoning ordinance, which explicitly defines violations and penalties.

No permit is needed to hold a garage sale, Rivard added, and only one call complaining about such a sale has been called into the county over the last four years.

Grimm also expressed concern about the incomes of certain county residents.

“I’m a little concerned for the young mothers and the young people that that’s how they make extra money is with these garage sales,” he said. “Life is hard enough with the way the jobs are being cut, the hours are being cut, and now we’re taking another revenue source and making it harder for them. “

Rivard said they took sentiments like Grimm’s into consideration while developing the ordinance.

“All the garage sales … that I know of, would easily fit into these parameters,” he said. “The only way, realistically … anyone would get pinched for it would be if they really blew it out of proportion.”

He added that while other counties have townships that handle zoning, Schoolcraft doesn’t, which left regulation of such sales up to the county.

Rivard also pointed out that commercial zoning districts in the county will not be affected by the ordinance.

Schoolcraft County resident Paul Wood also spoke during public comment, expressing his support for the ordinance.

“They (Schoolcraft County) had problems prosecuting a problem last summer … because the ordinance was not clear enough to differentiate between a … garage sale and a summer-long commercial operation,” he said. “The normal person holding a garage sale … it’s not going to bother them at all.”

Wood explained that residents who are forced to live nearby summer-long garage sales are subjected to the clustered parking and loud noise.

He also noted that he and his neighbors commend the ordinance, and are appreciative that it will allow the county’s prosecutor to act against residents conducting nuisance sales.

“Laws like this are designed for one or two, there not designed for 99 percent of the population, because 99 percent of the population wouldn’t do that,” Wood said. “Most laws … they’re designed to prevent the very few from doing the very ridiculous, and we have the very ridiculous in this county, unfortunately.”

Limited commercial operations in some zoning districts, such as Blaney Park and Gulliver, would not be affected by the ordinance, he added.

Rivard pointed out that if any resident has something specific they would like to sell for a longer period of time, they would be able to take the matter to the zoning board of appeals.

The planning commission members approved the ordinance and agreed to send a recommendation to the county commissioner in favor of its adoption.

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