Brainerd residents can expect a more proactive approach to city code enforcement in the near future.
When the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020, the Brainerd City Council directed staff to conduct code enforcement only as complaints were received. But with a relatively warm March causing early melting and revealing an excess of junk and debris on some properties, Community Development Director David Chanski recommended at the council meeting Monday, April 5, the city move back to proactive enforcement.
Chanski said his department has received an influx of code violation complaints since the snow melted, including a voicemail from a resident who was very upset with the overall disarray of her neighborhood. Staff conducted a four-block sweep around that area and found 19 code violations related to junk/debris and unlicensed/unregistered vehicles, Chanski said. That sweep did not include any property maintenance violations or other code violations, like landscaping.
Essentially, city staff has not done any property maintenance code enforcement since fall 2019, as that enforcement is not done in the winter, and then the pandemic followed.
When the issue was brought before the council’s safety and public works committee Monday, member Dave Pritschet said, while moving back to proactive enforcement seems to be the right move, the public should know the city is not after money when it comes to code enforcement but wants to make sure the city is cleaned up.
“I would think that both people calling in complaints and the people being complained about might be under a lot of pressure, a lot of stress with COVID,” Pristchet said.
Committee Chair Mike O’Day agreed, saying the city should be sure to be helpful and work with citizens to get problems taken care of.
Chanski agreed as well, noting the city generally ends up waiving many code violation citations once the problems are resolved and gives residents notice to fix a problem before issuing a citation.
“Sometimes it does take that citation to get people’s attention, but on an annual basis, we generally waive more citations than end up coming to the council in October for certification,” Chanski said.
During the regular council meeting Monday, the council agreed to Chanski’s recommendation of proactive code enforcement, with council member Gabe Johnson opposed.
Mayor Dave Badeaux said he wants to get the word out about code enforcement and make sure the public knows why it’s happening.
“We are here to do the public’s work, and I know sometimes people feel like we’re picking on them when we go through with this type of enforcement, but this is something that the public has asked for,” Badeaux said.