N.C. town imposes yard sale restrictions

By William R. Toler

Yard sales are a common occurrence across the fruited plain, however one North Carolina town wants them to occur less commonly. newton

Earlier this month, the town of Newton decided to impose several restrictions regarding how and when people can sell their own belongings from their own yards, according to the Hickory Daily Record.

One restriction was to limit the number of yard sales/garage sales to four per year. Another stipulation constrains each event to a 36-hour time limit, with all items being removed after the event. As if the time limit isn’t enough, sales are also banned on Sundays.

The vote for the draconian amendment was approved after a tie-breaker by Mayor Anne Steadman. Steadman said changes had been considered for several months months but “It’s now time to get it done.” She pointed out that the amendment graciously (my sarcasm, not her word) increased the number of events from three to four.

The Institute for Justice picked up on this story with a quick editorial questioning the decision.

“…why would cities want to restrict such an obvious source of economic gain for residents?

Banning yard sales on Sundays prevents suburban families from making a little extra money and using their property in a healthy, productive manner as they see fit. Most working families would probably like to host their yard sales on the weekends when people are out and about in the neighborhood and less involved with work and school.”

In a stroke of bureaucratic buffoonery , Collette Touchette, chair of the “appearance commission”, said that it wasn’t about the number but the “appearance left behind.”

This brilliant woman, well-versed in Orwellian Newspeak, added that it wasn’t a “matter of enforcement but a matter of having the ordinance on the books so it can be enforced.” She went on to equate an unsightly yard to murder, saying that “the police aren’t out looking for it but are told about it by someone.”

[Note: I could not find a punishment for violators listed in the code.]

This busybody has been on the warpath since last summer. In minutes from a June meeting, Touchette “requested that everyone take pictures of any yard sale violations so we will have examples when the ordinance is presented to City Council.”

It seems her mission, as chair of the “appearance commission” to control the activities and facade of her neighbors’ front yards…to mold everything in her own vision of what the town should look like.

And such is local government: a way to exercise control over things you don’t like at the point of a gun. Remember, the root word of “enforcement” is “force.”

There were three council members who had the good sense to vote against the amendment: Wayne Dellinger, Wes Weaver and Robert Abernethy. According to the paper, “Weaver said the changes are a waste and comical for the police to have to patrol.”

It always amazes me how tyrannical local governments can be in the so-called “land of the free.” It always boils down to libido dominandi: the lust to dominate. Some people think they have the right to tell other people what they can or can’t do on their own property, especially when it seems different or not appeasing to their own eye…something that is subjective and shouldn’t be subject to do-gooder dictates.

If local government antics (aside from state and federal) can’t dissuade people from trusting government, I don’t know what can.

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