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Spokane Valley council votes to limit yard sales to three per year

FILE - A bulldozer operator steps toward the cab to continue cleanup of this nuisance home in Spokane's West Central neighborhood last year. On Tuesday, Spokane Valley passed its own nuisance law. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - A bulldozer operator steps toward the cab to continue cleanup of this nuisance home in Spokane's West Central neighborhood last year. On Tuesday, Spokane Valley passed its own nuisance law. (Kathy Plonka / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane Valley residents will be allowed just three yard sales per year under a neighborhood nuisance law passed Tuesday by the City Council.

Complaints about residents holding year-round yard sales became a concern for the city because the sales pose a traffic problem in neighborhoods.

About seven years ago, Spokane Valley eased enforcement to allow seven yard sales per year to allow residents to sell items during the recession, said Councilman Arne Woodard.

“However, like so many things, somebody has to take advantage of it and we have several places around the Valley that the garage sales are going on right now,” Woodard said. “(They have gone on) all day, every day for about every weekend, 365 days a year and that’s not what we had intended.”

Woodard said three yard sales per year should be sufficient for people to clean out their garages and basements.

Councilwoman Brandi Peetz agreed with a cap on yard sales.

“I live by a house that continuously for this winter has had tables out front as to look like a garage sale,” Peetz said. “One of the reasons they’ve been able to continue to do that is because they say that it’s a garage sale.”

The new nuisance ordinance also takes aim at homes with excessive criminal complaints and abandoned properties.

The ordinance allows the city to recoup all costs associated with the abatement process on an abandoned property by placing a lien on the home for the full amount of cleanup or demolition.

The previous ordinance allowed for $2,000 to be recovered by the city because state law dictates any previous liens on the home would be fulfilled first.

Properties with numerous criminal activities would also fall under the nuisance ordinance. If the home has more than four criminal occurrences plus a junk violation or five criminal occurrences in a 12-month period, then the city could proceed with legal action.

One occurrence is constituted as one visit by police, but does not include domestic violence related police incidents, said city attorney Cary Driskell.

A Jan. 9 council meeting drew several public comments from residents affected by nuisance properties.

Spokane Valley resident Renee Anderson said she has lived near a chronic nuisance property for more than 15 years.

“I’ve woken up to the police outside my bedroom window with flashlights and police across the street with megaphones in the middle of the night trying to coax someone out to arrest them,” she said. “SWAT has been there, which actually, I was very excited about and offered them coffee because I thought this was going to be it. The constant police traffic is very welcome right now and most people don’t say that about their neighborhoods.”

A nuisance case can be initiated by city staff observation, referral from another agency or citizen complaints.

Homeowners would receive several warnings and opportunities to clean up the property before the city imposes a fine or takes legal action, including visits from a code compliance officer, notices and the option to work with the city to create a property cleanup timeline.

The first violation for a nuisance property is a $500 fine, a second violation within three years is $1,000 and any subsequent violation is $2,000.

The city of Spokane in 2016 implemented a similar chronic nuisance ordinance that allows the city to take legal action against a property with three or more criminal occurrences during a 60-day period or seven violations in a year.

Spokane’s ordinance speeds up the legal process for the city to obtain a lien and clean up an abandoned property and resell it if banks don’t object in court. It also limits yard sales to two per year.

The city of Spokane is working with the state legislature to remove the $2,000 lien cap for cleanup costs.

Spokane County plans to introduce a similar nuisance ordinance in the coming weeks, Driskell said.

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