Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Clayton leaders leaning toward allowing four garage sales or produce stands a year for nine hours

CLAYTON — Now that the media firestorm over their produce stand and the mayor who shut them down has blown over, 11-year-old Katie Lewis is entertaining an offer to sell her homegrown fruit and veggies at the Clayton Farmers' Market.

"I miss it," Katie said. "It was fun to come home from school and then go into the front yard and sell. Now, I just come home and do homework."

But she said the Clayton Business and Community Association has offered to pay for her and her sister, 3-year-old Sabrina, to host a table at the Clayton Farmers' Market and sell their wares. She said it sounds like a good idea.

In June, Clayton Mayor Gregg Manning closed down the girls' front-yard vegetable and fruit stand, citing zoning regulations that prohibit roadside stands and yard sales — even lemonade stands — in residential areas.

As a result of the groundswell of support for the girls, the Planning Commission on Wednesday discussed an ongoing effort to liberalize the small city's ordinance. Commissioner Keith Haydon said he and his colleagues are leaning toward a law that would allow garage sales and produce stands four times a year, between the hours of 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. That would be more liberal than what the city has now — not allowing stands at all — but it's not what the Lewises were hoping for.

Before the shutdown, Katie and Sabrina would pick pumpkins, squash, grapes and a host of other things from their Advertisementgarden, then sit every Saturday and sometimes during the week at a card table with an umbrella atop.

People, mostly neighbors, would drive or walk by and pay $1 or so for fresh produce.

Manning at the time said it wasn't about shutting down cute little girls, it was about following the city's zoning rules. The media — regional and national — glommed onto the issue and packed Clayton's tiny council chamber with bulky cameras. The town wasn't used to it, but Manning never budged from his position.

"Even though it's little kids, it's technically a land-use issue," he said then. "We can't discriminate and say, 'Well you're a little girl, so it's OK for you to do it.'"

Before the shutdown, Katie had, over more than a year, earned $1,000 toward college. Sabrina earned money, too, but her account isn't as big as Katie's.

Some of Katie's friends at Diablo View Middle School have mentioned the summer brouhaha to her.

"Lots of them say, 'I can't believe they shut you down, that's not nice,'" Katie said.

But despite the media frenzy and some of the negative things that came out of it (one of the Lewises neighbors vehemently opposed the stand), Katie doesn't regret fighting the city.

"I'm happy we did it," she said. "I feel that what they did is wrong, not just for us but everyone."

People still come over for produce, but they go inside the house to get it and don't pay any money.

Katie said she's also considering an Internet subscription business, where people would sign up and pay for produce through a Web site, then the Lewises would mail them a box of produce each week.

Haydon said the new ordinance, which will come before the commission sometime in December, will require that any stand not stall neighborhood traffic.

"We are also recommending that any produce grown on properties be sold through other avenues," Haydon said. "It's more in keeping with what most Clayton residents would expect."

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