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The city of Wauwatosa will crack down on yard sales after staff members noticed a number of sales that lasted all summer long, said the city's Development Director Paulette Enders during a city committee meeting earlier this month.

"Most of them ended up not being rummage sales, they were commercial operations," Enders said of the "excessive" sale lengths, adding the sales often sold brand new products instead of personal property.

The Wauawatosa common council approved the creation of an ordinance Tuesday, Jan. 19, that sets stricter rules about the time and frequency of rummage sales.

New rummage sale rules

Under the new ordinance, strict hours of operation and a limit on how many sales allowed per residence every year would be put in place.

Rummage sales could only be held between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m., under the ordinance. All sales must be held on the seller's property and items for sale would have to be located at least five feet from the nearest lot line, under the proposed ordinance.

Alderman Craig Wilson questioned whether the 5 p.m. cutoff time was too early during a committee meeting held earlier this month. He suggested the hours be extended to later in the evening.

"If a rummage sale is held in the summer time, five o'clock seems like a short window," he said. "We have a lot of daylight here."

But Alderwoman Kathleen Causier said the 5 p.m. cutoff time was appropriate as many neighbors are likely tired of the added traffic congestion along residential streets by early evening.

Additionally, each residence could only hold three rummage sales in a calendar year, each lasting up to three days, according to the ordinance.

Alderman Bobby Pantuso posed a hypothetical question during a committee meeting: "I die in January and my family has an estate sale. There's an estate sale at my house, it takes them three weekends to sell off all the stuff... new family moves in and at the beginning of September, they have a rummage sale, it's the same property. I mean, this is extreme, but would they be fined?"

Estate sales and rummage sales would both fall under the proposed ordinance as "residential premises."

City Attorney Alan Kesner said in that case, the city would have to use discretion.

The ordinance would also require that only one sign that reads "rummage sale," "garage sale," or something similar can be placed upon the property of the sale. Each sign cannot exceed 12 square feet in area, and it must be located at least five feet from the nearest lot line. Signs cannot be located on any property other than that of which the sale is being held.

"The reality is everybody puts signs (outside yards), is that realistic?" Alderman Matt Stippich asked about prohibiting yard sale signs outside properties.

The regulation gives the city the authority to remove the signs, Enders said.

All signs, regardless of location, must be removed within 24 hours of the close of the rummage sale, under the ordinance.

Anyone who violates or fails to comply with any part of the ordinance could be subject to a citation, under the proposed ordinance.

Other communities

The city of Brookfield limits garage sales to a total of three in a calendar year, with the length of the sale not to exceed three days. West Allis allows that each residence can hold up to three sales per year, each not to exceed four consecutive days in length.

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