Friday, Nov. 17, 2006 | 6:55 a.m.
There's something uniquely American about yard, lawn or garage sales.
It's free enterprise on the smallest scale. And before eBay it was just about the only place to buy a Bee Gees eight-track tape, chipped coffee mugs and a dirty pair of loafers in the same place.
But in North Las Vegas, garage sale entrepreneurs are regulated, although many sometimes unknowingly break the law by trying to hawk worn pants without first getting a permit.
"We didn't even know," said Alaea Garcia, who sold some knickknacks on her Lamb Boulevard yard over Veteran's Day weekend without a permit.
Although Boulder City also regulates yard or garage sales, Las Vegas, Henderson and Clark County do not require permits for such sales.
North Las Vegas' law, enacted two years ago, requires sellers to obtain permits at City Hall or through its Web site. It also limits where a sale can be publicly advertised and sets time limits.
Residents cannot host more than two sales - each lasting no more than three days - in any 12-month period. The permits are free but must be obtained by 5 p.m. Wednesday to legally hold a sale the following weekend. The license also must be posted in a visible location at the sale site.
Garcia had done none of that. She simply set out a few tables and used a pickup truck tailgate as an extra display case.
"You're not a cop, are you?" Garcia asked a reporter.
While Garcia and others - some of whom declined to give their names for fear of a police raid on used dishes and broken toys - failed to follow protocol, plenty of North Las Vegas residents have taken time to obtain the proper paperwork.
This year more than 275 permits have been issued in the city of about 200,000. Last year 329 permits were issued.
Although city code-enforcement officers have issued a few warnings and citations, officials stress that they aren't often looking to cause problems for garage sale mavericks.
"Some of the people who are new may not be aware of (the law)," said Kenny Young, senior executive to the city manager in the neighborhood service department.
But he said there's a good reason for the law and its enforcement. People sometimes complain, Young said, about neighbors who run garage sales like casinos - places that never close.
"They go to other people's garage sales and buy stuff to sell at their garage sales," Young said.
Boulder City has a similar set of ordinances for the same reasons, said Rose Ann Miele, a city spokeswoman.
Richard Cherchio, organizer of the North Las Vegas Alliance of Homeowners' Associations and Concerned Citizens, said many homeowners' groups have stricter standards than municipalities.
He said most gated communities allow only communitywide sales during specified weekends.
"You don't want people coming in every week," Cherchio said. "That's the whole purpose of gated."
Similarly, Favil West, president of the Sun City Anthem Homeowners Association, said the community prohibits individual garage sales to ease residents' concerns about strangers roaming the neighborhood.
"We have communitywide garage sales in our parking lot," he said. "Each resident gets a parking space."
In North Las Vegas, Garcia said she typically has about two sales a year to get rid of some junk.
"We don't sell a lot," she said. "Sometimes we don't even get $100."
Nevertheless, she said next time she'll probably get the permit.