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City permit required for all garage sales
garage sales
Before having a garage sale at their East Avenue home on Tuesday, the Cotton family obtained a permit from the City of Turlock. - photo by JONATHAN MCCORKELL / The Journal

Before putting out one box of knick-knacks or rack of clothing onto their front yard on Tuesday, the Cotton family obtained a permit from the City of Turlock to hold a small garage sale. The Cotton family was one of only about a dozen homes that obtained the mandatory $15 permit for that particular day. While the Cottons followed the city ordinance pertaining to yard sales, not all do. In just a mile radius of East Avenue to Main Street the Turlock Journal discovered three unpermitted sales on that same day.

Obtaining a garage/yard sale permit may seem an arduous undertaking to some, but it is for the benefit of everyone, said Turlock Police Department Neighborhood Services Supervisor Bob Boyd.

According to Boyd, the purpose of the garage sale permits is not to raise revenue for the city but to prohibit excessive yard or garage sales.

“The permits are about controlling the number of sales at one residence. If you’ve ever lived next to someone who has garage sales every day or weekend then you know how destructive they can be,” he said.

The Cotton family said they know first-hand the annoyance of a neighbor who has excessive sales. According to the family mother, who did not wish to be identified, a home across the street from them has yard sales every weekend without regard to the permit law.

“They just drop stuff off by the carload and they even leave stuff out overnight. It looks really bad and brings a lot of people in and they park all up and down the street,” she said.

The Turlock Journal approached three houses that held unpermitted sales on Tuesday. Two of the sellers were aware of the permit mandate.

Boyd said Turlock Police officers actively check to see if sales are permitted on a regular and even daily basis. This month alone there have been 216 permits sold and so far this year zero citations have been handed to violators.

“Typically, when we visit the homes we let them know they need a permit and if they don’t have one they can go down to the office and get one, but usually they just shut it down,” said Boyd. “The permit process is not about punishing violators, it’s about education and compliance.”

Some see the need for a yard sale permit as completely unnecessary. One woman who was holding a yard sale off Colorado Avenue had a strong opinion of the permit process.

“It is just one more thing the City of Turlock does to jerk you around. It’s hard enough to start a business in this town but they want to get involved into yard sales too. This is our first yard sale in three years,” she said.

Another man who held a sale on Minaret Avenue said the permits are impeding people’s right to make money.

“So if we have a yard sale and the permit fee is $15 but we only make $30 then we’ve cut our profit by 50 percent just because the city wants their money. This is a tough economy and people are trying to feed themselves and sometimes you just have to take a chance and have a sale and hope the cops don’t show up,” said the man.

Permits for garage sales are only issued twice per calendar year. Consequences for permit violations can range from verbal warnings to a $100 fine to court appearance and possible further fines.