Saturday, May 19, 2007

Yard Sign Nannies

The elections have come and gone, pardon us if we went into single issue mode over the school bond. Definitely time to move on to other subjects. One might have predicted San Angelo would not be long in presenting us with a new topic, and we are not disappointed.

Zoning is always a testy subject. Striking the correct balance between the rights of a property owner, allowing development to happen without undue regulatory encumbrance, and possibly, if one is very lucky, even helping economic development with far-sighted planning is a delicate job at best. My personal view on the subject tends towards the most "delicate" hand on the central planning wheel possible. A fine example of getting bogged down in details was the years long process involved before allowing citizens on small lots to build hail protection carports for their vehicles.

For several years now, the Santa Rita community has put on a Music in the Park super block party featuring a local band, hot dogs, games and such in Santa Rita Park. Residents have put out signs like the candidate yard signs we saw last month to advertise the event. This year, after apparantly having solved the other dicey details of zoning and having too much time on their hands, code enforcement opted for "aggressive enforcement" of 12.607 of city ordinances, and has sent forth one Rudolfo Ybarra to curb infractions of this long-ignored provision: to wit, he is knocking on doors and insisting that the "Funky Monkey" (for the musically impaired, this is the band playing tonight) yard signs be removed.

My first thought when I heard of this was that if they carried this over to garage sale signs we would see a storm of unrest the likes of which have not been witnessed since Mayor Lown proposed to monkey with our trash cans. Then I read the rest of 12.607 and found that "Auctions, Estates, and Garage Sales" are specifically exempted. Well, thinks I, no problem. Somebody donate a rusty bicycle, put a for sale sign on it, and put up yard signs promoting the "Funky Monkey Santa Rita Music in the Park Garage Sale". Oops. closer reading reveals the garage sale exemption is hedged about, allowing one sign on the residential lot where the sale is, and two "off-site" signs, which must "clearly indicate the street address and name of the person responsible for the sale". The party is in a public park and many off-site signs were put up.

This takes me back to my original concern over garage sales in general. At least on my side of town, it sometimes seems half of San Angelo is spending weekends selling its junk to the other half. I can scarce travel a block without seeing either a sale or a sign reading "Yard Sale" with an arrow pointing to a side street. But wait! Someone alert Mr. Ybarra! Almost none of these signs have the requisite information of name and address, there are often more than two, not to mention, most advertize "Yard Sales", not "Garage Sales". This tide of illegality must be nipped in the bud, to quote Barney Fife! Come on Mr. Ybarra, show us the stuff you're made of, take your life in your hands, and go mess with the yard sale ladies. Be sure and arrange for police backup, I'd rather stand between my aunt and her favorite soap opera.

Fun aside, it does seem better use could have been made of enforcement man-hours. Community events such as this should be encouraged in any part of the city, and for the record, I am not in Santa Rita, nor do I plan to be at this function. It seems the only cure is for Council to reasonably amend the existing ordinance, the sooner the better.

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