Monday, September 05, 2005

Ontario town cracks down on garage sales


LEAMINGTON - Mismatched cups and saucers, 25-cent scratched vinyl records and other people's bowling trophies may soon be harder to find in one southwestern Ontario town.

Garage sales have been kicked to the curb in Leamington, Ont., where city officials blame excessive home entrepreneurship on noise problems and traffic chaos in the town of 21,000 people.

The community has introduced a law to prohibit anyone from holding more than three garage sales a year.

"We'll shut you down and we'll charge you," Brian Sweet, Leamington's chief administrative officer, said of the unorthodox law.

Under a change to the city's garage sale bylaw, residents who put their used clothes and housewares on display more than three times in one year could be shut down by police and fined up to $5,000.

Resident Sandy Martinho, who held a garage sale at her own home this weekend to get rid of accumulating toys and clothes her children had outgrown, said there were probably better things for city officials to do.

"I don't think they should go out and spend their time looking for these," she said.

She added she doesn't know many people who would run afoul of the law. The weekend sale at her house was the first for the family in five years.

City officials made the change after complaints about weekly sales in some areas caused traffic jams on busy streets and a nuisance for neighbours.

Area businesses complained that homespun retailers siphoned off their profits.

"They really weren't real garage sales," Sweet said. "The people would go out and buy stuff from other places and be re-selling it on their front yard as opposed to getting rid of all their own junk."

Previously, area residents were allowed to apply for a permit to hold more than three sales in a year.

"If you start having more than three garage sales in a year, what you're really doing is you're running a business off your residential premises," said Sweet.

Local store owner Valentine Zarafily said the profusion of private sales was hurting her business. Some of them were selling new goods rather than items people cleaned out of their house, she said.

"All summer, three days a week ... it's not normal," Zarafily said.

Sweet insisted the change was unlikely to affect most residents, who he said aren't likely to have three garage sales in one year.

"I've lived in my house for 13 years, I think we've had one garage sale the whole time."

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