STANTON— The new wording on a proposed secondhand dealers ordinance should leave local antique dealers breathing a sigh of relief.
Antique dealers comprised a major portion of the audience during a Montcalm County Board of Commissioners meeting last October, during which commissioners heard overwhelming dissent against the proposed ordinance.
The goal of the proposal, initiated by Commissioner Steve DeWitt of Coral, who also works as Howard City’s police chief, is to help law enforcement officials track down thieves who steal and then sell items of value. But the ordinance would also place new responsibilities on those who deal in antiques, consignment and secondhand items in general, including detailed electronic reporting of purchased items and the people selling those items.
Among those voicing their opposition were Judy Guevara, owner of Hotel Montcalm in Stanton, Diane Lowell, owner of Birdie’s Antiques in Stanton, Ida Church, owner of Kaleidoscope of Times in Greenville, Larry Pettit, who owns antique shops in Greenville and Stanton, and Dave Wills, owner of the massive Burley Park flea market just north of Howard City.
Some local residents were not even aware until last October’s meeting that a state law already exists to regulate and license secondhand dealers. Michigan’s Public Act 350 of 1917 is similar to the countywide ordinance commissioners are considering.
Earlier this month, commissioners looked at some revamped ordinance language during their Law Enforcement & Courts Committee meeting. Some major changes were made to the ordinance, which will be reviewed by the county attorney again before being discussed at another public meeting.
One major change to the proposed language is an exemption for antique dealers from the secondhand dealer ordinance. Other exempt businesses include scrap processors, automotive recyclers and junkyards that deal principally in industrial scrap.
According to the revamped proposal, consignment shops would still be required to report certain items to police, including electronics, firearms, jewelry and hand and power tools (including lawn and snow equipment). However, consignment shops would not be required to report furniture, clothing, glassware of similar household goods to police.
A portion of language regarding yard sales was also removed from the proposed ordinance.
“We’re not seeing a lot of problems with stolen property at yard sales so we thought maybe that was a little excessive or restrictive,” DeWitt told his fellow commissioners.
DeWitt said consignment shops remain a “gray, confusing area” for regulation.
“We’re not interested in your grandmother’s bedroom set that you’re selling at your local consignment shop,” he said. “We want to concentrate on electronics, firearms, jewelry and tools. Those are our four high volume stolen items.”
DeWitt said he thinks the reworded proposal is “a very fair compromise.”
“If we really tried to be all inclusive and capture all stolen property, we would really be restrictive and excessive,” he said. “We’re trying to compromise. We’re not going to to catch everything, but we are going to catch those four items (electronics, firearms, jewelry and tools).”
Commissioner John Johansen of Montcalm Township said he thinks the ordinance will benefit buyers and sellers alike.
“I think if you read the state law … a lot of people weren’t even aware of the requirement and if they were aware of the requirement really didn’t know where to start,” he said. “This clears it up. If we can narrow it down and make it less restrictive, I’d be all in favor of that.”
The proposed ordinance will be discussed again at a future Board of Commissioners meeting.