Brainerd staff to speed up cleaning of messy yards, snowy sidewalks

City Council members change the city code to allow for staff to address issues of snowy sidewalks, long grass, garbage and animal feces.

City Council members sit in chambers
Brainerd City Council and staff discuss matters during their meeting Monday, March 6, 2023.
Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Complaints about unshoveled snow, unmowed grass, garbage and animal feces will be expedited in Brainerd.

The move comes after city officials agreed last year to move from proactive code enforcement to a complaint-based system and updated guidelines for citations and timelines in dealing with violations.

One of the updates directed staff to bring violations not solved after three citations to the Safety and Public Works committee for further action, which in some cases involves city staff remedying the violation and assessing the property owner for the expense.

In reviewing last month how the city handled the change, Community Development Director James Kramvik brought up whether violations — for not removing snow, mowing lawns and getting rid of garbage — really need to come in front of the committee before staff can remedy the problem. A resident added on the issue of animal feces after saying she dealt with neighbors who do not clean up after their dogs, which quickly becomes a problem in warm months.

A person clears a snowy sidewalk.
Dispatch file photo

Right now, once the city receives a complaint of a code violation, staff visits the site to verify the violation and then sends a notice to the property owner, who is given a certain amount of time — typically 10 days — to correct the violation. If the problem is not resolved, the property owner will then get a $100 citation. If they fail to act, they will receive up to two more citations over the next 20 days. The second citation would be $200 and the third escalates to $300.


While this process has allowed staff to deal with some problems more quickly than before, it has lengthened the process for mowing long grass and clearing snow from sidewalks, which city staffers used to be able to take action on sooner.

City Council members approved the final reading of an amendment to the city code Monday, March 6, allowing for staff to take care of a nuisance pertaining to snow-covered sidewalks, grass higher than 6 inches and the presence of garbage and animal feces without taking the measure to the council’s Safety and Public Works Committee first.

More Brainerd City Council coverage

If a property owner commits another similar code violation within 12 months, they will receive a $300 citation, and staff will again take care of the problem and assess the cost to the owner. City staff may bring repeat offenses to the Safety and Public Works Committee to determine further action.

No one spoke at a public hearing on the code change Monday night.

Council members approved the updated code language on a 6-1 vote, with Gabe Johnson opposed. Johnson’s concerns lie, not in expediting the process for these specific code violations, but in the section of code dealing with administrative citations altogether.

Prior to last year’s updates, the city code stated a property owner could be fined a maximum of $2,000 for any one violation. While the revisions typically mean a violation is dealt with after $600 worth of citations, there is no maximum citation amount listed, a point with which Johnson has continually taken issue.

“I won’t belabor the point, but I will be voting no because there is no administrative citation dollar amount cap,” Johnson said. “I do think that is necessary to protect citizens from unreasonable fines.”

No other council members commented on the change Monday, and with their approval, the updated code will go into effect one week after it is published in the newspaper.


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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