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Code enforcement cracks down on renegade signs

By Melissa Crowe
May 1, 2013 at 12:01 a.m.

Robert Gregory, left, and Stephanie Lee make purchases at a garage sale on Jocelyn Circle in Victoria.

The ordinance

Chapter 5, Article 8, Section 5

• No sign, sign structure, or sign support shall be placed upon or project over any public property or right-of-way.

• Prohibited: Sandwich or A-frame signs, sidewalk or curb signs, signs upon trees, rocks, bridges or utility poles, or signs utilizing such objects for all or part of their support.

Source: Victoria City Code

Code enforcement officers, not sign-stealing bandits, are the culprits behind a rash of missing yard sale and service advertisements across Victoria.

Although the city is enforcing what it has on the books, the change in priorities is leaving many garage sale hosts frustrated.

Jessica Amador heard about the city pulling up yard sale signs weeks before her garage sale, but didn't expect to get caught up in the mix when she put her sign out Saturday morning.

Amador, 31, hoped to send Navarro traffic to her garage sale at the end of the cul-de-sac on Jocelyn Circle.

"I came back an hour later and it was gone," Amador said laughing.

Development Services Director Jared Mayfield said the 2004 ordinance has not changed, but last November, it started being enforced.

"We started picking them up because a lot were being left out," Mayfield said. "You could drive Monday morning and see garage sale signs from the weekend before."

With the city permitting 40 garage sales last weekend and 28 so far for this weekend, enforcing the ordinance is impacting people across the city.

The officers rotate Saturday shifts with the work part of their regular work schedule, he said.

He said the code enforcement officers are not discriminating against garage sales, and removing those specific signs is not the priority. They fall under the "bandit sign" category, which includes advertisements for services such as roof repair, lower utility bills or buying gold.

"We're just picking up everything that's in the right of way," Mayfield said.

Elvia Figueroa, a Victoria resident, said the city "is punishing everyone."

By picking up garage sale signs the morning of the sale, the city is financially hurting its residents, she said.

"It's hard to make ends meet," she said. "I depend on that money twice a year."

After purchasing a $10 permit from city hall, Figueroa expected to bring in about $1,000 on her weekend sale.

She usually puts out signs on Sam Houston Drive, Laurent Street and Mockingbird Lane, but this time, followed the city's rules. As a result, she said she felt the consequences.

"I only made half," she said. "I lost out on a lot of customers."

The permit specifies that no signs, sign structures or sign supports may be placed on utility poles or in the public right of way, including sidewalks or intersections or public trees, rocks, bridges or other public property.

"Why are they focusing on this?" she asked. "There are a lot more important things to focus on."

Mayfield said the city could make its sign rounds Mondays.

"What we noticed with the other signs is they were showing up on Friday night and Saturday," Mayfield said. "It's like people were putting them out in anticipation of shopping weekends, so that's why we started picking them up."

Slower traffic along Victoria's major thoroughfares Saturday mornings also created a safer environment to remove the signs, he said.

"There's been a more concentrated effort on Saturday to pick up signs in general, but they're removing them all the time," he said.

Mayfield did not call the signs "litter" but said they make the city untidy.

"In the age of Facebook and Craigslist, our website and the Advocate's website, using new technology may be an option for folks to consider," Mayfield said.

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