NORTH MANKATO — A North Mankato man is asking a court to throw out a decision by the City Council that declared his property a “public nuisance.”
Ed Borchardt argues that the city of North Mankato’s Dec. 7 decision was based on unconstitutionally vague language in city code and was arbitrary and capricious.
Based on some complaints by his neighbors, Borchardt was pushed by the city for years to cut brush and overgrown vegetation in his yard, eliminate plantings that are too close to the street, and remove personal property that was not properly stored.
Last fall some residents helped 80-year-old Borchardt clear much of the yard, but the city concluded the property on 229 Allan Ave. was still out of compliance and continued to draw complaints.
Borchardt’s attorney, Karl O. Friedrichs, wrote in a Nicollet County District Court filing that the city’s ordinance is not only filled with “vague and subjective language,” but that the city didn’t follow language in the code and is subjectively using it against one property owner.
Part of the code refers to unkempt properties that draw complaints from a “considerable number of members of the public.” But Friedrichs said the property, owned by Borchardt and his wife, Ann, only drew complaints from two residents, which doesn’t constitute a “considerable number.”
The suit also says the decision was based on “the subjective opinion of the enforcement officer” and wasn’t supported by evidence presented by Borchardt and other residents who spoke in support of him.
Assistant City Attorney Christopher Kennedy filed a response saying the city worked with Borchardt to try to get his yard into compliance, and that while some improvements have been made, the property still isn’t in compliance with city code.
Kennedy noted that Police Chief Ross Gullickson viewed the property with Borchardt in September, took photos and showed Borchardt the problem areas. He said the City Council received all the background information on the property and heard from two neighbors who testified the property has been an eyesore for years, as well as hearing from other residents who didn’t have a problem with the yard and spoke in favor of supporting pollinator gardens.
Kennedy said the council found “that the rank growth of vegetation permits a habitat for rodents and other animals, the vegetation is unsightly, the vegetation causes a public health concern, and the property is maintained in a fashion that unreasonably annoys a considerable number of the members of the neighboring properties.”
After citing the property as a public nuisance, the council gave Borchardt until June 1 to bring it into compliance.
Kennedy said the city acted within its rights to enforce its ordinance and that the council’s decision was legally sufficient and based on facts.
The suit comes as the City Council considers adding an ordinance that would allow pollinator gardens or “natural managed lawn areas.”
The proposed ordinance would allow people to put a portion of their yards in native plantings if they maintain it and follow setback and other rules.
The council was to vote on the ordinance in January. But after a public hearing, where more than a dozen residents — mostly opposed to the ordinance — raised a variety of questions, the council voted to table the issue. City staff is expected to fine tune the proposed ordinance and bring it back to the council.
Residents raised issues with the wording of the ordinance, believed it is too restrictive, questioned the need for the ordinance, and some argued it was only being pursued to single out Borchardt.
No court date has been set in the case.