Taneytown's Yard Sale Overkill

January 08, 1993

If Taneytown's proposed ordinance regulating peddlers and yard sales is approved as written, the town's residents may find they will have to divulge more personal information to hold a Saturday yard sale than to obtain a gun permit.

People holding yard sales will not only have to disclose personal information -- height, weight, color of eyes -- but also list his or her employer, length of employment and any criminal history. The town clerk then will have to conduct an investigation of the applicant's "business and moral character." Given that most stuff sold at yard sales consists of old clothes, old toys, old dishes and other odds and ends, the proposed ordinance does seem, to say the least, bizarre and unnecessary.

Belatedly, town officials seem to have recognized the ordinance is excessive. Town Manager Joseph A. Mangini Jr. said the town's attorney is investigating the possibility of separating the language governing peddlers and solicitors from that governing

yard sales. It is a welcome and logical step.

The next step would be to examine what kind of regulation of yard sales is necessary. Some town officials believe that yard sales make the town look like a "Turkish market" and would like to ban them completely. Others are merely interested in knowing which residents will be holding yard sales so police can better regulate traffic and parking.

In the overall realm of things, yard sales don't represent a threat to public order and safety. With tables, clothes racks and boxes sprawled over front lawns, yard sales may be a bit unsightly for a few hours at most. Because of their temporary nature, they certainly are less offensive than the billboards that grace the roadsides of this county.

As for traffic control, Taneytown could maintain a list at town hall for people could sign up to notify the police they are having a yard sale that weekend. To obtain a permit for a yard sale doesn't make any more sense than requiring people holding a large party in the town to obtain a similar permit. Parties and yard sales probably cause just about the same amount of traffic and parking congestion. Why create more unnecessary paperwork, permits and red tape over something as inconsequential as yard sales? At Monday's meeting, we hope the council will apply some common sense in addressing this trivial bother.

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