After a solid 10 minutes of discussion and clear disagreement between St. Francis Mayor Jerry Tveit and Councilmember Mike Haggard, the St. Francis City Council Monday approved a city nuisance ordinance 4-1, with Haggard opposed.
A few moments later, the council also voted 4-1 to approve a noise ordinance, again with Haggard opposed. Haggard had, however, voted in favor of that same noise ordinance at its first reading March 18.
The nuisance ordinance, which is recommended by the League of Minnesota Cities, is intended to facilitate both the city’s ability to enforce violations and to clarify the steps necessary for the violator to bring the situation into compliance.
The city already had a general definition of a nuisance in its city code, but it did not specifically list those nuisances.
The ordinance had failed to pass at the council’s March 18 meeting because ordinances require a four-fifths vote to pass and Tveit had been absent due to illness. Haggard had voted against the ordinance then, too, resulting in a 3-1 majority. However, Tveit requested that the issue be put back on the agenda at the April 1 meeting.
Haggard said Monday he thought the new nuisance ordinance might be great for a big city, but not for a small town.
“People come here because they want to live in a small town; they don’t want big city rules and regulations,” he said. “I’m getting so many calls on this stuff, and they won’t call the other council members because they don’t trust them.”
Haggard challenged several of the nuisances listed. He questioned whether a line calling for waste receptacles to be rodent-free and fly-tight and not pose a health hazard could be used to keep someone from storing their garbage cans in front of their garage.
“I don’t think it says anything about cans in front of the garage,” said Tveit.
The line is meant to prohibit rodent-infested waste from being piled up and requiring waste to be instead of placed in an appropriate receptacle, he said.
Haggard also questioned an item listing noxious weeds as a nuisance.
Tveit’s response was that the city would only enforce that section if, for example, there was poison ivy growing right up to a sidewalk, clearly within line of sight. He said city staff wouldn’t police, or even know about, weeds way in the back on someone’s 10 acres.
Haggard also said he had a problem with requiring temporary housing structures to have adequate sanitary facilities. He asked if this would affect the Red Cross’s ability to bring in emergency shelter if homes in St. Francis were to be damaged by a tornado.
“There’s just so much stuff like this,” he said.
Tveit pointed out more than once that the nuisances listed in the new ordinance are already part of the city code.
“All this [ordinance] does is to state specific violations that are already on the books, but it makes it easier to pinpoint and cite in a citation,” said Tveit.
But Haggard still disagreed.
“Then my argument is, if it’s already on the books, why are we going further into it,” he said.
Tveit’s answer, again, was that the city wants to make nuisances easier to enforce and easier to remedy.
The noise ordinance also approved 4-1 on April 1 similarly clarifies noise limits, types of noises and the city’s authority to enforce those violations.