Guest Column: Garage sales—an American institution

To some, it is a “nuisance,” to others, it is a “necessity,” and to still others, it is a “right of citizenship.”

Since George Gaulrapp has been mayor of Freeport, his administration’s been pushing to “clean up Freeport”—to make it more attractive, more marketable. That’s a good thing, a noble goal. But Gaulrapp has had officials driving around looking for “offending” properties and activities; they’re going “fishing” and violating people’s privacy and rights.

Last fall, based on a few anonymous complaints and/or personal preferences of certain officials, Gaulrapp’s administration took on and adopted a fence ordinance (No. 2005-67) that denies property owners the right to install certain fences that can be found at local retailers, such as Menards. It’s one thing to regulate fences that create traffic hazards; it’s quite another to regulate fences that deny owners privacy or that keep pets and children safe and secure.

Recently, based on a few anonymous complaints and/or personal preferences of certain officials, Gaulrapp’s administration (absent public debate and input) unilaterally determined the lowly garage sale be regulated by ordinance—limiting the number, requiring permits and assessing fines if permits aren’t obtained.

Gaulrapp’s administration has unilaterally decided a lot these days, specifically the following two issues:

declaring the codified 1980 Land Use Plan “obsolete,” without providing an alternative; and

declaring the city can ignore established zoning and an Industrial TIF Plan to co-mingle incompatible uses that create/increase hazards by mixing mega-retail and industrial traffic.

A group calling itself Citizens for Free Enterprise is circulating “Petitions in Support of No ‘Garage Sale’ Regulation.” They recognize the garage sale as an American institution, the free expression of capitalism; they recognize some need garage sales to make ends meet, cover back-to-school expenses, or turn household and personal items into cash.

Petitions can be found at many Freeport restaurants, hair salons and other small-business establishments.

Contributing Writer Marianne L. Garvens is a Freeport resident.

From the Sept. 13-19, 2006, issue

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