By: Jeremy D. Wells
Carter County Times
Grayson City Council met in special session last week to discuss employee retirements, budgets, and ordinances amendments. It was the amendments to the city’s yard sale ordinance, though, that generated the most discussion among council and the most questions from the public in the comment section of the city’s live stream of the meeting.
Like many other cities, Grayson has been holding closed meetings during quarantine, and live streaming those meetings. Comments on the live stream of last Tuesday’s meeting showed that it was amendments to the yard sale ordinance that seemed to concern most of the public tuning in to watch the meeting.
Grayson’s existing ordinance states that homes are limited to two yard sales per year, for up to three days each time. Most residents, code enforcement office Duane Suttles explained, have their yard sales over the weekend, opting for Thursday – Saturday or Friday – Sunday to sell old household items and clothing. While citizens are required to request a permit for their yard sales, those permits do not cost them any money. Rather, Suttles explained, those permits are simply intended to notify code enforcement of who to hold responsible if the yard sale ordinance is violated. Other than the correction of grammatical errors, the most significant change in the amended ordinance was an increase of fines for violating the yard sale ordinance. The existing $10 fine was increased to “not less than $25.”
The list of infractions that can earn a person a fine, though, is rather small. All yard sale signs, for instance, must be in the yard of the individual holding the yard sale, or in the yards or on the property of those who give permission to place the signs there. No signs are allowed to be placed in the public right of way, or attached to utility poles or other public property. The ordinance also requires all signs to be removed once the yard sale has ended.
Those holding the yard sale, too, must ensure that adequate ingress and egress are allowed for those attending the sale, to “keep congestion to a minimum,” Suttles explained. Anyone who holds regular ongoing sales in their neighborhood, on private residential property, could be found to be in violation of other zoning regulations, which dictate that areas zoned residential cannot support certain types of commercial activity unless that neighborhood is also zoned for business use. These regulations, like the yard sale rules about adequate ingress and egress, are intended to save neighbors from the nuisance of traffic and congestion.
The yard sale discussion led into discussion of other types of temporary sales, such as the flag sales in the empty lot along Carol Malone Boulevard, sales of items off the back of truck beds, and the sale of items on weekends along US 60 and in the Prichard school lot.
“I was hoping this ordinance would keep people off the Prichard lot, or any lot that’s not their home,” councilperson Sudy Walker said.
Suttles explained that what is needed to address those situations is another ordinance aimed at temporary commercial sales or “flea market” type sales. One of the components of the yard sale ordinance, he continued, was that it related to sales that had to be conducted at a residence the person holding the sale had to own or rent.
“Hopefully there will be another ordinance,” to address those flea market type sales, Suttles said.
Mayor George Steele said that because Prichard school was private property, there wasn’t much the city could do unless the school asked the city or city police to address the issue. So far though, Steele noted, “they’ve not asked up to control (sales).”
In the case of the flag sales along Carol Malone, Suttles explained, those individuals had applied for a temporary business permit and worked out a deal with the owner of the lot to utilize the property there for their temporary sales.
In the case of yard sale violations or other sales, Suttles said, “sometimes the only time we can police them is if there is a complaint.”
Steele expressed further reservations about the city taking action on those kinds of sales.
“We don’t want to get in the business of enforcing something on private property, and the people that own that property don’t care if they’re there or not,” Steele said.
Suttles further clarified that any type of sale that did not occur in a residential yard was not governed by the yard sale ordinance, and that the proposed flea market and truck sale ordinance would be needed to take any enforcement action against those type of sales. While the city does require a peddler’s license, that license applied more to those engaged in door-to-door type sales, not to the stationary flea-market or truck bed type sales.
Council voted unanimously to approve the amended yard sale ordinance.
In other action Steele noted that three city employees will be retiring at the end of the month, including police chief Kevin McDavid and city clerk Darlene Simmons. Steele asked council to approve a motion promoting current office clerk Kathy Neice to the role of city clerk, effective July 1, which passed unanimously. Steele also praised Suttles for his work as the new code enforcement officer before asking council to approve Suttles for “double duty” filling the office clerk role vacated by Neice when she advances to the city clerk role. That motion was also passed by council.
Steele also discussed the proposed budget with council, asking them to look it over before coming back to approve the budget. Steele told council there was some chance that the city could get police and fire salaries partially covered with funds available through the CARES Act. That, the mayor noted, would be beneficial for the city’s budget.
Steele told council that he expected the budget to be tight through July and August, but after September he expected the city’s financial situation to improve as more businesses reopened.
“We’re not going to have a lot of money to spend in July and August,” Steele said.
But despite that possible budget shortfall, Steele was confident enough in the improvement of the city’s budget situation after September that he recommended raises for certain city departments, including the police department. Steele recommended a $2 per hour raise for all police personnel. Once salaries were set, he said, they could then finalize the budget.
On the suggested $2 per hour raise for police personnel, Steele said it was necessary to retain talent.
“If we can’t compete… we’re not going to have police officers,” Steele said, before adding that he was “comfortable with these raises.”
Council took no action on budget approval at the time of the meeting, but planned to revisit the issue in another special session dedicated to the budget.
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