CHAMPAIGN — If you have held more than one garage sale in the past year, you have broken the law, according to the Champaign municipal code.
Well, not really, but an error that has been on the books for the last 15 years would make it seem so.
City council members could vote to correct that error when they meet for their regular meeting on Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Champaign City Building, 102 N. Neil St.
The intended language of the city's zoning ordinance would allow residents to hold four garage sales per year, up to four days per sale.
But after a 1996 revision to the larger zoning ordinance — and "a transcription error somewhere along the line," said zoning administrator Kevin Phillips — the rule was changed to read that residents could hold only one sale per year, up to four days long.
The culprit was the addition of a single word in the legal language where it should not have been — a prime example of how a typo can change the meaning of an entire section.
"Somebody, I think when they were retyping it, the rhythm of the sentence makes you want to put something in there," Phillips said.
The unintended restriction on garage sales was discovered recently, "When I was sending out a notice to someone, actually," Phillips said. That notice was for a violation of the original four-per-year intent of the law, not the erroneous once-per-year rule.
The ordinance has not caused any problems — residents have still been able to hold their four allowable garage sales each year if they choose, Phillips said, since that was the original intent of the 1996 city council. But the council on Tuesday is scheduled vote on a revision that would correct the record once and for all.
"I hope it's not controversial because we're really not changing anything from the council's original intent," Phillips said.