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Enforcement curbs garage sale traffic

The city needs to allow signs so people can find the weekly sales.

Recently, after being 'swamped' all morning, Friday garage sale shoppers abruptly stopped appearing at my house mid day. Later, I drove to Pacific and 19th to find my garage sale signs gone. The following Monday I was told by the city that workers had picked up 'illegal' signs as part of their Friday responsibilities.

I'm on a fixed income so two garage sales a year help pay property taxes. I always run advertisements in the News-Times and Argus, but many people do not subscribe and 75 percent of those who stop do so because of my garage sale signs.

I am aware you cannot nail signs to posts or trees, so I purchased small wire bases that push in the ground easily. I thought I was following the rules until my signs disappeared. I read the ordinance again and realized as it currently stands, no temporary signs can be in the public right-of-way unless you own the adjacent property. (At least that's what I think it says. It's a complicated document.)

Even proposed amendments to the current sign code limit garage sale signs to one or two on your own property only. And by the way, the future fine could be $100.

I am not a fan of perpetual garage sales that compete with local business owners who are required to buy licenses. I am also not a fan of signs that remain after a sale is done, or signs that endanger city workers who may have to climb utility poles filled with nails. I do believe, however, that the city of Forest Grove needs to recognize garage sales as a popular low-cost activity frequented by many citizens from a variety of backgrounds.

It's also a social activity and a recycling adventure for those who buy and sell. Directional signage is vital to the success of garage sales.

SUGGESTIONS:

1. Allow garage sale signs on public right-of-ways Friday a.m. through Sunday p.m. Require addresses on signs and send warnings and/or fine notices to anyone who fails to remove signs in a timely manner, or anyone who nails signs to trees or utility poles.

2. Require garage sale signs printed by the city and charge a $5 fee per sign. Allow these signs to be posted in the public right-of-way Friday through Sunday. Warn/fine anyone who nails signs on trees/poles or anyone who fails to remove signs on Sunday evening. Use the income generated by fees and fines to hire a minimum wage employee to remove unapproved signs for a few hours each weekend.

3. Be consistent! Current policy is far too random. I would like to see fair and consistent enforcement of rules regarding garage sale (and other) signs - including sign removal, and a system of warnings and fines if necessary.

These are only a couple of suggestions. The main point is there needs to be a way to accommodate this activity and allow signs in the public right-of-way so people can find their way to weekly garage sales. There must be a way to accomplish this and maintain a balance between a city that is vibrant and active but still safe and clean.

I urge the city and the sign ordinance committee to revisit this subject and make sure there is input from citizens who have experience in both attending and hosting garage sales. I also urge citizens who care about garage sales to speak up. I felt lonely at the recent public hearing!

- Roberta Nickels lives in Forest Grove