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Park Rapids Council talks about possible junk ordinance

Other topics in a special workshop on April 26 included canceling meetings in August and November due to election dates and turning down an offer of DNR land.

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Park Rapids City Hall
Park Rapids Enterprise file photo

The Park Rapids City Council discussed whether to develop a junk ordinance during a special workshop on Tuesday, April 26.

“There are properties that need attention in this town,” said City Administrator Angel Weasner. “It has come to my attention to do many, many of them. However, we do not have an ordinance that allows us to do a whole lot. We can cite them, but then if they do not comply with that, we have to go through the attorney to get authority to go on the property and clean it up.”

Weasner said the city attorney advised creating a junk ordinance, which his office would prepare, so that city staff could handle these issues directly and assess cleanup costs to the owner’s property taxes.

Weasner stressed that the junk ordinance would be separate from a property maintenance ordinance, which would be keyed to health and safety regulations. She said this would also require the city to appoint a code enforcement officer.

Council members discussed concerns that could be addressed by a property maintenance ordinance, including a garage in the city that has been covered with Tyvek for several years.

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They also noted the city has a lawn mowing ordinance, which requires the city to put out mowing jobs to bid and then assess property owners for the costs.

For examples of the need for a junk ordinance, council members discussed a home in the city whose residents leave furniture in their yard; another with a wrecked trailer overturned in its yard, spilling junk into an adjacent alley; and a third where toys left strewn about often fall into the street.

Weasner said with a junk ordinance, she wouldn’t have to consult the attorney for $1,000 each time a homeowner doesn’t respond to a citation, in order to move forward with cleanup and assess the owner for the costs.

Council member Tom Conway said, “I’m for anything that’s gonna clean up some of this stuff.”

He added, “There’s just a lot of properties that aren’t appealing when you drive into this town, and that goes a long ways to everything from people wanting to move here to people wanting to vacation here.”

Other council members agreed that everyone should be held to the same expectations of property maintenance as short-term renters.

Weasner said that once the junk ordinance is underway, she can start working on the property maintenance code.

Conway said he is also in favor of beefing up lawn mowing enforcement.

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Weasner agreed to review the process set down in the existing ordinance. “I know a process that works very well for that, so we can implement that,” she said.

In other workshop discussion, the council:

  • Agreed to pass on an offer of land from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. The 2.9-acre parcel is a narrow strip of land adjacent to Heartland Park, crossing the Fish Hook River at the former site of a railroad trestle bridge that was demolished last year. It  includes a narrow frontage on State Hwy. 34 at a crosswalk that Leckner described as dangerous. Council consensus held that owning the parcel would bring more liability than benefit to the city and suggested offering it to the neighboring property owners. 
  • Agreed with Weasner’s proposal to let City Clerk Beret Ramstad Skoyles represent the city on a bikeable community organization. Noting that Ramstad Skoyles had previously worked on a bikeable community grant in Detroit Lakes, Weasner asked if any council members were interested in also attending the meetings. There were no takers.
  • Discussed how Weasner should decide which legislative action alerts from the Coalition of Greater Minnesota Cities (CGMC) to bring before the council. Weasner said these would be resolutions supporting CGMC-sponsored legislation. “I was looking for some discretion, moving forward, what I think is more relevant to us, vs. every single file,” she said. “I’ll forward all of them, but I’ll suggest, ‘I believe we should do this one.’” Council members agreed.
  • Agreed to cancel their regular meetings on Aug. 9 and Nov. 8 due to the primary and general elections taking place on those dates. Weasner alerted them that they may need to call special meetings to canvass the election results, depending on when the county auditor provides that information. 
MORE RELATED COVERAGE:
Department heads gave a report on the past year or two at a city council workshop on Jan. 24.

Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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