Should code enforcement be complaint driven or proactive?

With the pending adoption of the city’s new zoning code, property maintenance code and rental code, the council had an in-depth discussion on the future of code enforcement.

Brainerd city council members sit around a table
The Brainerd City Council met, Tuesday, Jan. 24, 2022, to discuss city codes and how those codes should be enforced.
Tim Speier / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — The Brainerd City Council discussed what codes to enforce and how those codes should be enforced during the Tuesday, Jan. 24, workshop.

With the pending adoption of the city’s new zoning code, property maintenance code and rental code, Brainerd Community Development Director David Chanski said now is a perfect time to discuss the future of code enforcement.

“Do you like that we're doing proactive (code enforcement) or do you want us to do just complaint-driven (code enforcement),” Chanski said. “That's what we're trying to get because sometimes we hear something is not getting done or that we’re being heavy-handed. So we're just trying to even it out. We want to know exactly what you, as the council, want us to do.”

Chanski said his department is there to enforce the city’s codes, as directed, not to make the codes or to choose how those codes are enforced.

“The constituents elect the elected officials and we should pass ordinances and laws,” said council member Gabe Johnson. “City Hall should administer those ordinances as written and signed by the mayor and council president. If those ordinances need to be changed, it comes back to the city council to change and then staff enforces those. And if the citizens don't like it, they elect different city council members to write different laws that staff enforces, as written, even-handedly.”


City Engineer and Public Works Director Paul Sandy noted a solely complaint-driven system often resulted in disputes between neighbors with the city stuck in the middle.

The memo states proactive enforcement has a negative effect in that more violation notices are handed out by the city, where a complaint-based system relies on residents finding a problem and calling the city with code violations. However, a proactive approach, the memo stated, generally results in a cleaner city.

Council members said they would enforce commercial property owners and landlords as they are the taxpayers and property owners and should be held to the same standards, if not higher.

“I think that we need to be more strict with our businesses than we are with our homeowners and that includes rental properties,” said Mayor Dave Badeaux. “I'm saying that I support our businesses 100%, but if you're gonna have a business in the city of Brainerd, you need to understand that you have to be a part of the solution.”

After discussing the issue, the council will keep a complaint-driven system throughout the year and will have some proactive enforcement during the summer months, with an emphasis on repeat offenders.

During the workshop, the council heard from City Administrator Jennifer Bergman on the upcoming revision and reorganizing of the city code.

Bergman would like the council to review the city’s code to ensure the entire code is compliant with both state and federal law and is updated to reflect the changes the city made throughout the years.

Citing several companies, American Legal Publishing and Municode, that would be able to revise the city’s code by 2023, the council asked for more information and pricing before providing direction to city staff.


TIM SPEIER, staff writer, can be reached on Twitter @timmy2thyme, call 218-855-5859 or email

Tim Speier joined the Brainerd Dispatch in October 2021, covering Public Safety.
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