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At yard sales, two-weekend limit stirs anger

After County Commissioner Paul Sullivan proposed a measure last week that would require all yard sales to be held within a designated two-week period of the year, clairvoyant colleague Bobbi Mills voiced her opposition to the change.

"We're telling people that on two special weekends, they have to have their garage sales," she said during the commission meeting, where members voted 4-1 to approve the measure. "I think we're going to get a lot of static."

Saturday in Spring Hill, amid a hodgepodge of discount household items, electronics equipment, clothing, toys and sporting goods that were displayed prominently at several weekend yard sales, the first sparks of that static flew as Hernando County residents unleashed some angry words against their county government.

"Is the guy a communist or something?" said Bill Langston after he was told of the two-week schedule Sullivan had introduced to the commission. "Maybe he lives in a rich house or something, but the guy obviously has no idea what's going on in the real world. He's a communist and ought to be kicked out of office."

Langston's wife, Laurie, echoed her husband's vehemence as she cautiously inspected a bedside table being peddled at a yard sale on busy Deltona Boulevard.

"People should be able to do whatever the hell they want in their own front yard," the Spring Hill woman said. "Aside from killing, raping and selling drugs, of course."

Customers and homeowners conducting sales who were interviewed Saturday unanimously opposed the measure, which will be enacted in about a month, when code enforcement manager Frank McDowell develops a suitable ordinance.

Yard sales provide families and elderly residents with a means to supplement fixed or insufficient incomes, many said, and also offer homeowners a productive way to clear out unwanted items they may have stockpiled over the years.

"One person's junk is another person's gold," said Gerrie Reed, who was conducting another of Saturday's multitude of yard sales at her home on Deltona, which seemed to be home to many weekend vendors.

Reed said she and her husband, Robert, have had numerous sales at their home over the past few years and have never heard any complaints from neighbors. A good day's business, they said, nets a couple hundred dollars for their family and also allows customers to purchase items at rock-bottom prices. During the interview, Robert Reed finalized the sale of a tent he had purchased for $250; because it had a broken zipper, he let it go for $50.

However, the Reeds, like many others Saturday, acknowledged that some yard sales do indeed become eyesores and that a modicum of county regulation is needed to curtail the number of small businesses that operate unethically in residential areas.

And some homeowners have merchandise strewn about their yards every day of the week, said Gerrie Reed's mother, Jeanette Lopinto. Others, she said, put up excessive advertising fliers that they don't pick up after sales.

"There definitely should be some law that says people have to take down signs," said John D'Elia after he inspected an old computer the Reeds had priced at $85. "If people can put them up, then they can also take them down."

D'Elia, however, is against any other type of regulation of yard sales, especially the use of special permits, which the county discussed before Sullivan's proposal.

D'Elia said many yard and garage sales are frequently thrown together at the last minute as a result of urgent, unforeseen money shortages. Having to apply in advance and pay for a permit, he said, would take away an element of independence and security that he feels is his right as an American homeowner.

"I've had sales myself, and it's the only way I've got to make a little extra money when I need to," he said. "As a veteran, I've come to expect certain freedoms we have in the United States of America. This is one of them."

Others, like the Langstons, displayed anger and bitterness at Sullivan's suggestion, citing the measure as an example of government intruding too far into the private lives of residents.

Despite the varied emotional responses the new measure illicited Saturday, customers who made the rounds of Deltona's many sales over the weekend expressed fundamental opposition to a change they feel will eliminate a valuable service from their community.

"We go to sales all the time, and they're a wonderful thing for both the people who have them and the people who visit them," said seasonal resident Sally Caine, who made the tour of the Deltona bazaar Saturday with her husband, Jack. "I'm sure (the county commissioners) can figure out a better way to handle this."