Minnetrista emergency order

It’s been well over a month since Mayor Whalen issued the 3 day emergency order for Minnetrista that removed council oversight because of the COVID19 pandemic. The night it was declared it was also extended by the city council indefinitely on recommendation of the city’s legal counsel. Back then there were a lot of unknowns that are now known.

We know the projected death rate of COVID19 has fallen dramatically from what original models predicted. We know that the recovery rate is close to 99%. We know that the vast majority of deaths have been in long term care facilities (Minnetrista has none of these) and to date none of our first responders have been infected according to weekly reports the council receives (one is awaiting test results).

So I asked to add an agenda item to our 5/4 Monday council meeting to discuss rescinding the emergency order in Minnetrista. The order can only stay in force until the council votes to remove it. We are all still under the Governor’s stay-at-home order and I questioned the purpose of even having a local emergency order continue since it has essentially not been needed for anything so far.

The answer was that none of the other cities are rescinding their emergency orders and we don’t know what will happen in the future so it should stay in place. So it seems developing powers of clairvoyance is required. We will have another opportunity to discuss it at our next meeting.  www.ShannonBruceForMayor.com

Monday’s nuisance property ordinance discussion update

Something to understand is the Minnetrista city council would not be having this discussion but for a single property that has been an annoyance to those that live on Deer Creek Road or drive by it regularly. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a problem but it should put the problem in perspective.

During our work session April 6 I asked how many properties had been the subject of this kind of complaint and our Director of Public Safety answered

nuisance prop
Example – not subject property

“very few” and that most of the issues with them had been resolved satisfactorily, with the exception of this one. When pressed about the number of properties and complaints I asked if it would be fair to say there have been approximately two properties that have been the subject of complaints in the rural areas, and the answer was affirmative, that it would be fair to say there had been approximately two.

Note that most housing developments are governed by their own homeowners associations’ rules regarding these matters. Rural areas, obviously, don’t have HOAs.

Modifying our current ordinance dealing with nuisance properties requires hiring an attorney (Minnetrista does not have its own staff attorney) and would likely cost Minnetrista taxpayers a tidy sum. My question is: If our current city code has been sufficient to resolve our issues with nuisance properties in the past and this is a relatively isolated instance (i.e., not a community-wide problem) should we be spending taxpayer dollars on it?

There is an abatement clause in our current nuisance ordinance that provides for the city to give notice to a property owner of its intention to abate (remove) the nuisance. My understanding is the city has not done that.

This matter was not resolved at the work session and staff was given direction to come back to the council with their ideas at a future work session.


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“Private wells must comply with water restrictions”: Minnetrista 2040 Comp Plan

A private well ordinance to force compliance with city watering restrictions is intended to be adopted by the City of Minnetrista according to its 2040 Comprehensive Plan. The water-restrictionsplan is on the council’s agenda Tuesday, September 3 at 7pm for final adoption.

I’m assuming Minnetrista residents on private wells do not support this because they are already financially incentivized to restrict water usage. Many rural homeowners on private wells have their own personal water treatment systems with iron filters and water softeners that require the use of bleach and salt. They typically are frugal with their water use because it’s expensive not to be. There is absolutely no reason to impose this regulation on private wells that don’t impact the city’s water system.

private well ordinance
Page 227 Minnetrista 2040 Comprehensive Plan

MN Cities beware of GreenStep program

Minnesota cities need to beware of the GreenStep Cities Program.

First they need to know that although it is promoted as being funded by nonprofits, foundations and grants, in order to promote sustainability, the fact that the primary funding source for the program is the Met Council is left out of their presentation. The GreenStep Cities website lists all the nonprofits that supposedly promote the program but what they don’t tell you is the Met Council funds all the staff positions in these organizations that promote the GreenStep Cities program.

GreenStep Met CouncilGreenStep lures unsuspecting Mayors and Councilmembers with promises of recognition, awards and eligibility for grants if they follow the “steps” which are designed to replace local autonomy over a city’s planning process and turn it over to the Met Council, a central planning authority of unelected officials with taxing authority that is known for its overreach and insatiable desire to expand it’s base.

GreenStep sample ordinances are designed for more central government control over building regulations and private property use. Based on Agenda 21/Kyoto Protocol (that part is left out too) these recommended ordinances guide cities to restrict economic development to their strict guidelines, impose mandatory building codes for residential and commercial development and restrict land use which all drive up the already exorbitant costs of affordable housing.

A resolution signed by the city council is required to enroll in the program to qualify for awards at the League of Minnesota Cities annual meeting. Once the resolution is signed it is mandatory the city provide Met Council access to the data it collects implementing each “step.” Some of this data collected will likely be municipal, commercial and residential energy usage. That raises some serious privacy issues.

The City of Plymouth was ready to enroll in the program last month with a proposed resolution on their consent agenda. After pulling the item from the consent agenda and listening to several speakers articulate their concerns about GreenStep Cities, the council decided to take no action that evening.

This is not a program to casually enter into without understanding the ramifications on privacy and local government autonomy. Of course cities should implement best practices to conserve energy, promote recycling and plan development. They are free to review and implement any of the GreenStep Cities “steps” if they really make sense for their city without signing anything. The best council decisions are based on what’s best for constituents, not awards and recognition. The grants come with strings as well. Let’s hope cities do their homework on this before passing a resolution they’ll regret.


GreenStep Cities Red Flags

GREENSTEP CITIES RED FLAGS: Mayor Whalen invited a representative from the GreenStep Cities program to address the city council last August. Enticed by the lure of recognition and their seemingly benevolent mission, “Minnesota GreenStep Cities is a voluntary challenge, assistance and recognition program to help cities achieve their sustainability and quality-of-life goals,” it gained legs with staff and was advocated again at the city council’s strategy meeting in February.

When the GreenStep representative was asked last August about where their funding came from they said it was primarily nonprofits, foundations, and grants. What they failed to disclose is they have two major funders, one of which is the Met Council. And we all know the Met Council’s allegiance to local government autonomy.
GreenStep Met CouncilRed flag number one: Not being transparent when asked a direct question about funding sources.

In conversations over the weekend I learned from one of our state legislators that the GreenStep Cities program is “Repackaged from what was formerly known as Agenda 21 (for the 21st Century) GreenStep appears to be an obfuscated friendlier name for the same thing.”

Those unfamiliar with the United Nations Agenda 21 need only know it didn’t receive a warm welcome in the United States, with states passing resolutions condemning it and one even passed legislation prohibiting government involvement in the program.

Red flag number two: Changing the organization name when it’s reputation is exposed as undermining federal, state, and local autonomy.

The GreenStep Steering Committee is comprised of representatives from several nonprofits that are all climate change evangelists working together with the University of Minnesota, League of MN Cities, and various state agencies.

GreenStep Steering CommitteeRed flag number three: Human caused climate change is a controversial topic and there is no diversity represented on the steering committee.

This is not a program that will benefit the Minnetrista electorate. In fact, the sample ordinances they provide to cities appear to be designed for more government control over building regulations and private property use.

No award from the League of MN Cities is worth this.




New ordinances in Minnetrista’s future?

close up court courthouse hammer
New Minnetrista ordinances?

Important strategies that will impact your quality of life as a Minnetrista resident and your pocketbook as a taxpayer will be discussed at the city council’s strategy planning meeting on February 19 at 4pm in the Minnetrista public safety building (next to city hall).

This is, as all council meetings are, a public meeting although it isn’t listed on the city’s website calendar as of this date. The public may observe the session but there will not be an opportunity for public comment.

At our last council meeting the city administrator informed council members a number of new city ordinances will be discussed at this meeting. This past year there have been suggestions to consider new ordinances in reaction to resident complaints on a variety of issues. Before jumping in to adopt new city-wide ordinances the following steps are critical in my opinion:

  1. Conduct a needs analysis which examines what the problem is, how many people it affects, what other solutions might be available to solve the problem, and what unintended consequences may arise from any of the solutions.
  2. Determine the cost of developing, drafting, revising and adopting the ordinance. Attorney’s fees, staff time and council’s time can run into hundreds of hours from the time of proposal to adoption.
  3. Determine the cost of enforcing the ordinance. Adopting ordinances without enforcing them undermines the public’s trust in the city.
  4. Do a cost-benefit analysis to examine the ordinance’s benefit to the community-at-large compared to the total cost of developing and enforcing it.

The steps above will lead to a good decision. I hope we can all agree on this.

“Keep it Rural Minnetrista” Elroy Balgaard for City Council video

The slogan “Keep it Rural” resonates with the people I’ve been talking with, even those living in the more densely populated Minnetrista housing developments. I was in Hunters Crest yesterday and many of those homes border beautiful marshes and prairies that residents cherish and want preserved.

City Council members have the authority to approve Planned Unit Developments (PUDs) in areas outside the MUSA line that are zoned “Rural” as well as “Urban Reserve” that could drastically change the entire landscape of Minnetrista. Make sure you vote for someone who will not support higher density PUDs than current primary zoning allows in these areas. In the 2040 Comp Plan there is something called “Limited Secondary Zoning” that essentially allows higher density in these zones if the council deems it appropriate. It’s important who you vote for.

August 18, 2018

MISLEADING LAKER HEADLINE. If you read the Laker today you may have seen the headline “Golf carts no longer prohibited…not permitted either.” Minnetrista’s city code doesn’t specifically “permit” all kinds of things we do every day like jogging on city roads or even walking on them. That doesn’t mean we can’t do these things, they simply aren’t prohibited and that’s exactly how it will be for golf carts. They will no longer be prohibited in the city code.

This headline incorrectly leads readers to think residents will still not be allowed to use their golf carts on city roads (if they read only the headline which many people do). The word “permitted”, as used in the Laker headline, technically refers to the city officially regulating and issuing “permits” for the operation of golf carts on city roads. The city council has chosen, wisely in my view, not to do that, which means residents will be free to drive their golf carts on city roads without violating Minnetrista’s city code.

City staff and the Mayor were advocating for the regulation and permitting of golf carts and would still like to see that happen. After all, when hasn’t more government regulation been a good thing? I’m disappointed in the Laker for misleading Minnetrista residents.

July 19, 2018

A REQUEST BY A MINNETRISTA HOUSING DEVELOPER WAS RECEIVED BY THE CITY ASKING IT TO FORMALLY AUTHORIZE THE OPERATION OF GOLF CARTS WHICH WOULD REQUIRE AN ORDINANCE TO REGULATE/LICENSE THEM THROUGHOUT THE CITY. The reason for the request is potential home buyers either have golf carts or want to buy them and would feel better knowing they are legal. The developer offered to pay the city’s cost for drafting a new ordinance.

There happens to be a state law that essentially makes the operation of golf carts on city streets anywhere in Minnesota illegal unless a city has an ordinance specifically authorizing their use. Such an ordinance would require golf cart owners to register and pay for a permit to operate on Minnetrista city streets. Minnetrista currently has no such ordinance specifically authorizing golf carts and despite their widespread use has never issued a citation for their operation on city streets.

Golf carts have never really been an issue in Minnetrista since most owners are responsible and use common sense in their operation. They’re generally used without incident locally to transport things around farms or to boat launches and don’t go fast enough to hurt anything. It makes one wonder why it’s necessary to regulate golf carts at all, which are actually slower than bicycles and involved in far fewer accidents.

What one thinks of the state law is irrelevant since Minnetrista has no choice but to be governed by it. We do have a choice, however, of whether we impose permit fees on golf cart owners who have for many years been freely operating their carts in Minnetrista.

Is it a legitimate role of a city council to impose fees upon constituents for the convenience of a housing developer? This is not, and never has been, a safety concern. How many hours of staff time would be required to process new permits, renew expired ones, maintain records and enforce the new rules governing where and when they can be driven and under what circumstances? We’ve been told the revenue from the permits would cover the staff time but this revenue comes from resident’s pockets and that’s the bigger concern.

Governmental jurisdictions pass laws all the time they don’t enforce consistently and some they don’t enforce at all. I’m generally of the opinion we shouldn’t pass laws we don’t intend to enforce but in this case the state statute isn’t something we, as a city, can change.

Let’s not create more government red tape when there are no safety reasons to do so. Our current city code on this matter has served the community well over the years and there isn’t any good reason to change it. A good reason to change something requires a benefit to the community at large and my guess is most Minnetrista residents with golf carts and even those without wouldn’t see it that way.