St. Boni council talks burglaries, crate

By Lorrie Ham
For The Patriot

The St. Boni City Council dealt with a variety of issues at its April 5 meeting, including reports from the Minnetrista Department of Public Safety and state Sen. Dave Osmek, as well as a discussion regarding a public nuisance complaint about a cargo crate at a property on Wildwood Avenue.

Minnetrista police Sgt. Pat Cummings reported that a 19-year-old man had been arrested in a series of residential burglaries in the St. Bonifacius area that occurred during the month of March. Subsequent search warrants were executed at a local residence and vehicle, where items connecting the suspect with the burglaries had been recovered, Cummings said.

“We’re extremely confident that he is responsible for most, if not all, of the recent incidents,” said Cummings.

The suspect is being held at the Hennepin County Adult Detention Facility pending charges.
Mayor Shawn Ruotsinoja commended the department.

“Keep up the good work!” he said.

Osmek provided an update on the state Legislature’s activities. He was proud to report that the state’s senators had gotten their job done early and were ready to put some bills on the governor’s desk right after Easter. Osmek, who serves on four committees, said he was “highly concerned” about Highway 12 safety. He also said he supported a Met Council reform bill.

In another matter, Eugene Rakow, of Wildwood Avenue, was on hand to dispute a letter from the city regarding a complaint about a cargo crate located on his property. The letter, dated Feb. 21, requested that the crate be removed within 30 days.

Rakow said the crate has been on his property for the past 15 or 16 years. He said he inquired at the city at that time and asked if any kind of permit was required for the crate, which he uses as storage. He said that he was told the only requirement for the shipping container was that it couldn’t be attached to a permanent structure.

While there is no record at the city of that interaction, City Administrator/Clerk/Treasurer Brenda Fisk acted on an anonymous complaint, and sent the letter, saying that the crate was not allowed per city ordinance, because it did not meet the style and design of the principle building on the property.

Councilmember Mary Bishop asked if this was the first complaint regarding the cargo container, and Fisk said it was. When Rakow said there were other cargo containers within the community, Fisk acknowledged that another container was also the subject of the complaint, but said that container has since been removed.

Councilmember Bob Smestad said that a cargo container is typically used to move items. He questioned how long the container would be allowed to sit on residential property and whether it would require a permit.
“It’s not a shed,” he noted.

Ruotsinoja asked whether the question was about the structure or about its use. Smestad felt that it was temporary.

“You can pick it up and move it,” Smestad said, mentioning the use of the popular moving pods.

Fisk said the city’s ordinance calls a structure less than 144 square feet a utility building. At 160 square feet, the cargo crate would be considered the size of an accessory building. By city definition, a nuisance obstructs views; creates cluttered or unsightly areas; prevents full use of streets; allows commercial advertising where prohibited; decreases neighborhood enjoyment of property and/or adversely affects neighborhood property values.

Ruotsinoja said the city’s ordinance was lacking any regulation for cargo crates.

“Maybe these need to be handled separately,” he said. “I have a little difficulty in finding a compelling reason to call it a nuisance based on the ordinance. The bigger issue may be whether it meets the accessory structure ordinance.”

Bishop felt that if the crate was a nuisance, the reason should be obvious.

“It’s been there for over 15 years,” she said.

Ruotsinoja added that the complaint addressed in the letter regarding the style of the building didn’t really apply, as he felt that regulations regarding cargo containers needed to be addressed.

Councilmember Terrill Anderson suggested consulting with the city attorney for a definition.

Smestad made a motion to extend the crate removal deadline by 60 days from the council meeting to allow for further review, which passed on a 4-1 vote, with Bishop opposed.

Rakow said he didn’t think the city could say yes and then change its mind and say no, and he wondered if they would go through the same discussion again in 60 days.

“As far as I’m concerned, it (the cargo crate) has been there for 15 years and it’s grandfathered in,” he said.