Aug. 18, 2011 — -- The city of Salem, Ore., shut down the yard sale of a woman who had been selling her belongings to pay for her medical bills. The reason? A city ordinance limits a home to hosting a yard sale three times a year, as first reported by ABC affiliate KATU.
Jan Cline, 64, said she did not know such a law existed. She thought she was being unobtrusive by hosting the yard sale in the backyard, but a city code enforcement officer on Monday came to inform her that a neighbor had complained and she was breaking the law.
Cline, who was diagnosed with bone marrow cancer on July 1, has been unable to run her two businesses, an educational toy company and a limousine service. But after being devastated by the diagnosis of the disease, which can be terminal, she thought a yard sale would temporarily help her pay for medical bills and house payments while she is a near-invalid. Meanwhile she is staying in the home of a friend to avoid walking up and down her stairway.
"I'm not supposed to be walking now because it eats through the bones and puts holes in the bones. I could walk and break a leg," she said.
Cline said she is a "resourceful" and "hard-headed" business woman.
"I'm not the type to let the government pay my way," Cline told ABC News. "If something happens I jump to and take care of it. That was my solution. I thought for half an hour. Have a major garage sale and sell my life."
The local chamber of commerce groups and friends have volunteered in the four or five weekend yard sales this summer. She said she made about a "couple hundred" dollars each weekend.
But when the city informed her she had to shut down the sales or pay a $380 fine or even face jail time, she said she cried.
"I just hope that nobody else has to go through this kind of thing," Cline told KATU. "I hope no one else has to give their lives away for nickels and dimes and then be told they can't even do that. I hope nobody else has to do this ever."
The city's ordinance 96.165 about yard sales or garage sales states "it shall be unlawful to conduct within the City of Salem more than three garage sales in any calendar year, each of said sales to extend no longer than three days."
"I told them I understand the law but in this particular case I would like to ask if there could be an exception. I would like you to think of me as a human instead of a complaint on a list," Cline told ABC News.
Mike Gottard, public information officer for Salem, said the city is trying to help Cline while respecting the law and the neighbor who complained.
"We are very sympathetic to her situation so are working to try to find something that will be better," Gottard said. "Again, this was driven by a complaint. We don't go out and look for these things. We want to come up with a solution for everybody."
Gottard said the city is working with the Chamber of Commerce or faith-based groups to support Cline.
"I'm not a drug dealer. I'm not parking broken cars on the street," Cline said. "I'm a business woman who contributes to the society without trying to take money from anybody. You're telling me I can't sell my own belongings in someone's own private backyard."
Cline said she is looking forward to surviving the "aggressive" treatment she is undergoing so she can get back to work and have an income. She said doctors have told her she has a 93 percent chance of remission when the treatment ends in late October, and she could stay in remission for five to 15 years.
She said she is hopeful to be in the middle of that range, because she is a "healthy person normally."
Cline said of the items she has sold, the "fancy dishes" she used for special events were the hardest to sell.
"It's ok. They're just things," Cline said. "I have friends who bought things and I'm tickled to know they own them. My experience has been bittersweet. I'm glad people are getting things at a great price. I'm sad to see them leave."