All those years that strangers were pawing through your old overcoat from up North, your ugly loud scarf, that mostly working toaster, and those record albums the spouse says finally have got to to go, it turns out you were breaking the law.
Boynton Beach has required permits for garage sales for three decades, but the process ties up city clerks for so long that, at $5 a permit, the city pretty much loses money. And no one can remember the last time someone got a citation for selling polyester without a permit.
So commissioners will be asked Tuesday to drop the requirement for a year.
According to a staff memo for Tuesday’s meeting, the city started issuing permits in May of 1983 after getting complaints that a handful of homeowners were holding repeated sales. Households are limited to two permits a year.
Permits are $5. At an average of $225 a year; they generate $1,125, less than the city pays for its ocean lifeguards for one day.
But the city says applicants have to stand in line with people who are getting building or zoning permits or applying for business tax accounts, killing more than a half hour. And it says processing ties up so much clerk time that “the city does not fully recover staff costs with the existing permit fee.”
The city even figured that citizens were burning 1,500 vehicle miles a year to drive to city hall, at a time when the city is pushing environmental initiatives.
It also said checks of other cities found few required permits, and only one, Royal Palm Beach, charged a fee; it asks a whopping $10.
And, the memo said, after searching records back 12½ years, staff found not a single case of police citing a person for holding a sale without a permit.
So staff is recommending suspended the permit requirement for a year and seeing what happens.
“I support most staff initiatives,” Commissioner Michael Fitzpatrick said. “Good government is like any engineering problem. The theory may be correct, but some pragmatic trial and error is still needed to find the best solution.”
With people hit hard by the economy, garage sales actually seem to be on the rise, Tara Bennett, spokeswoman for the Salvation Army of Palm Beach County, said Friday.
“A lot of families who used to be able to donate their used goods to us are now having to find other means to need the income they need to sustain themselves,” Bennett said. “Those are the families who were supporters and now are in need themselves.”
THE COST OF DOING BUSINESS
Boynton Beach is considering a moratorium on its $5 permit requirement for garage sales. Here’s what Boynton Beach found in a survey of other cities:
No permit required: Palm Beach County, West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Boca Raton, Wellington, Jupiter, Greenacres
Permit required: Lake Worth (no fee); Royal Palm Beach ($10.)