By Julia Glendening

Dexter Auction

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

The City Planning Commission has agreed to study whether Charlottesville should create a permit system that would restrict homeowners to only three yard sales a year. The idea was presented to the Commission at their meeting on July 14, 2009 by

Craig Fabio

, the City Zoning Inspector. The program would allow Charlottesville to regulate and keep track of all the yard sales in the City, while fining violators of the ordinance. Fabio hoped it would also reduce the amount of illegal signage posted around the City and reduce the amount of time staff spent removing the signage.

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Fabio began the discussion during the Commission’s pre-meeting held outside City Council chambers, by outlining basics about the program. He said if the permit system is instated, people would have to obtain a yard sale permit, which would allow them to have up to three yard sales a year. The fee for the permit is currently estimated to be $5 for administrative purposes; however, Fabio said this could be waived, specifically if the process was done via e-mail. Once a permit is obtained, a certain number of advertising signs would be allowed, as long as they were promptly removed after the sale. The system would be implemented in the residential area and Fabio mentioned staff will examine how churches will be classified.

Approximately a dozen versions of this sign were posted in the Woolen Mills area

Fabio said the main problems with unregulated yard sales is that they can be illegal businesses if conducted on a regular basis. He said people have been buying items and selling them every weekend as a “Temporary Outdoor Sale,” essentially running a business from their home. Fabio said this is not permitted in a residential area and there have been many complaints from neighbors.

Excessive and illegal signage is another pressing problem with yard sales according to City staff. Fabio said currently no signs are allowed to be posted off of a person’s private property and the fines are $100 for the first sign violation, $250 for each additional sign up to $5,000. He estimated that staff spends about two hours a week removing illegal signage. He stressed the importance of education and described the handout staff gives to violators to educate them instead of spending the City’s time and money to prosecute them in court.

During the regular meeting, Commissioner

Dan Rosenweig

pulled the item from the consent agenda for more discussion. He was concerned with putting too many restrictions on City residents.

“I believe that healthy yard sales are a healthy part of a secondary economy,” said Rosenweig. “I think at the end of the day we have to look to see if passing this ordinance serves the general welfare.”


Cheri Lewis

agreed and said, “We have to make sure we are not over-regulating behavior that is not objectionable.” This was Lewis’s last meeting of her eight-year term on the Planning Commission.

Vice Chair

Mike Farruggio

also expressed his concerns with the enforcement of the program and said he did not believe people would utilize the system by obtaining a permit, especially if there is a $5 fee.


Jason Pearson

directed that staff should focus on the negative impacts of the permit system as they prepare a report on the issue for the Planning Commission. He summarized that the Commissioners wanted to know whether people will be inhibited from having legitimate yard sales.

Although Commissioners had concerns, they unanimously approved the initiation of a study on the yard sale permit system. Staff will have 100 days to complete the study and will bring the topic back to the Planning Commission at a later date.




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