Hinsdale considers ordinance limiting yard sales

Tuesday October 9, 2012

HINSDALE, N.H. -- A local man voiced opposition to a draft yard sale ordinance that the town’s Board of Selectmen is set to vote on next week, saying it will negatively affect his ability to pay bills and medical expenses.

Dwight Sprague, 69, said he holds a handful of yard sales every summer at his 789 Brattleboro Road residence and uses the money to help make ends meet. He used to attend flea markets in Newfane and Wilmington but is unable to now because his wife Cathy, who has multiple sclerosis and is confined to a wheelchair, cannot be left alone or in the sun for long periods of time.

Sprague, a retired electrical tester, said his yard sales have become somewhat famous in Hinsdale, and they help generate cash to pay his wife’s medical bills, including a new $7,000 piece of equipment he just purchased. He said he has been holding yard sales since the late 1960s, and used to host some on Putney Road in Brattleboro.

Sprague said he sells general items, some of which are donated.

Though the ordinance will increase from four to 10 the number of yard sales a property is allowed to hold each year, it will for the first time require a permit and impose a $10 fee. The Community Development Office will issue the permits, which will have to be applied for at least 72 hours prior to the scheduled day of the yard sale. The selectmen are slated to vote on the ordinance at their meeting on Monday, Oct. 15.

The ordinance would be enacted for the control of yard sales and traffic congestion they may create, as well as to improve the town’s aesthetic appeal. The intent is to limit the number of yard sales a Hinsdale resident may have during a year.

It says any dwelling -- which it defines as a building, or part of a building, containing living and sleeping accommodations for permanent occupancy -- shall be limited to 10 yard sale permits between Memorial Day and Columbus Day weekends.

There would be a limit of one yard sale per permit, and it cannot exceed a length of 48 hours on regular weekends and 72 hours on holiday weekends. In the case of a multi-family yard sale, each dwelling involved shall be counted as having one. Any violation of the ordinance would result in a $100 fine for each day an offense continues.

Board of Selectmen Chairman John Smith said last Tuesday he had no comment on the matter because he had not gotten a chance to read the draft ordinance.

Sprague said the required three-day notice is unfair because of New England’s unpredictable weather, though it is possible to secure a rain date. He also said people often hold yard sales to get rid of possessions left by a deceased relative, and it’s nearly impossible to know when such a death may occur.

"I would just say they’re probably trying to get me to not have too many yard sales, but I can have up to 10," he said, adding that they sent him a cease and desist order in mid-August. He’s not sure if the town is interested purely in making money off yard sales.

The ordinance has been discussed at two Board of Selectmen meetings, which Sprague and another man attended. He said at the second meeting, the Selectmen decided on a required 10-day notice and a $2 fee. He said he talked them down on the notice and told them the $2 was futile because it wouldn’t cover administration costs.

He thought the Selectmen would scrap the whole idea but he said the board chose to increase the fee to $10 after he left the meeting.

The ordinance would also establish ground rules for signage -- regulated by the Hinsdale Zoning Ordinance as being temporary and not to exceed 3-square-feet in size. All signs would be required to bear the name of the property owner, as well as the street address, date of sale, rain date and time of sale. They would also have to be removed at the end of the same day the sale is held. Failure to remove signage would result in a $25 fee.


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