Letter to the Editor December 14, 2016

Maple Lake Nuisance Ordinance Needs Revision

Maple Lake’s Nuisance Ordinance has become a “catch all” tool for city officials to go way beyond common sense, decency, and concern in addressing REAL nuisance issues. Every city needs a nuisance ordinance. Maple Lake is no exception. The public must be protected from noise, pollution, harmful situations, and what have you. But really, what about a nuisance ordinance that allows council members with their perceptions, being allowed to attack residents with “carte blanche” power? An ordinance allowing them to claim they had a citizen complaint compelling them to put you on the agenda without your knowledge, to deal with a matter you are totally unaware of? Indeed, an ordinance allowing them to give you an ultimatum for compliance to deal with whatever THEY perceive to be a “Nuisance?” Yes, that’s right. Our nuisance ordinance currently allows a council member the power to literally call anything they want, for whatever reason, at any time, something on your property a nuisance, with additional power to have you fined, thrown in jail, and/or pay for a so called clean up potentially costing thousands of dollars, providing no limits in cost since they can make you pay the final bill by placing any limitless assessed amount on your taxes.
Deb Geyen lost her bid for mayor and it was no secret I didn’t support her. She placed me on the agenda last week without contacting me about any concern(s) she might have, causing her to do this. Regardless, I found out and attended the meeting, thinking it was about trees the railroad removed, endangering my house and causing potential disaster. Instead, at this meeting, Ms. Geyen showed pictures of her perceptions of nuisances on my museum/ flea market commercial property. It became a session of what previous minutes called for and what her concerns were. I had been asked to put up a screening fence, on the north side of this property facing the railroad tracks. I had done that. A cow pasture gate had been approved to be placed on the east side of the property. Now the consensus was that this gate had to also be screened and that pallets in the fenced area could still be seen, even after I previously lowered the piles and sustained a knee injury while doing so. Discussion continued and it was determined my two orange met stadium turnstiles, at the entrance to the museum, had to be removed until the museum was operating. In other words, they were at this point, a “nuisance”. Moving on to the South side of the building, I was told the wood tables would be allowed as long as my “For Sale” sign remained on them, but that my metal tables must be removed. They constituted a “nuisance”. My two large outside safes could remain but no others could be moved in. I had forgotten to state I had three instead of two, currently outside. In any event, this part of the council meeting became one of exercising their power to label nuisances as they saw fit. There was some hesitation and even lack of participation, as participants wondered out loud if this was what enforcing this mysterious ordinance should be all about. One well-meaning member assured me that this issue was simply about clutter (subjective term), and how best to deal with it. Interestingly enough, I pointed out a number of items had been dumped on my property (Love Inc. has had similar problems), which had been reported to law enforcement and dealt with. Ms. Geyen wanted to be assured City Staff hadn’t been involved in any abatement resolution as this was a property owner concern, not city, quite contradictory to her earlier statements.
Anyway, I was given three weeks to address the perceived identified nuisances. It’s a good thing I came to the meeting. I assured the council I would do everything humanly possible to resolve their concerns. In the meantime, my knee injury still becomes an issue when I work in freezing weather and snow. I continue to want to do what is right. I have never felt otherwise. On the other hand, it is now high time this ordinance be revisited and reconstructed to address REAL nuisance issues, not perceived ones serving as a football for a council member to embark on a vendetta. Common sense tells you an open invitation for anyone to call anything they want, at any time, for any reason, a Nuisance, is just plain wrong. Adding insult to injury, allowing for continued abuse of power which provides for assessing unlimited costs, fines, and jail time simply because someone calls a museum static display or other mundane item is a nuisance, really must be addressed. I would appreciate this whole matter being revisited in the near future, with a council invitation to attend, while cold temperatures, snow, and my knee injury limit what I am currently able to do.
Thank you
Merry Christmas
John Haack