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Maintenance of City Property

Discussion in 'Other Governmental Matters' started by lemerson, Jul 5, 2021.

  1. lemerson

    lemerson Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    Minnesota
    We own a residence. The city owns a stretch of property adjacent to our back fence where they put in a walk/bike path several years ago. The city mows the grass, but otherwise have not done any maintenance on the property. Weeds, trees, and other brush have grown on the city property up against and through our fence, along with debris that has collected from illegal dumping.

    We are replacing our old fence. The fencing company wants a three-foot path cleared along the property line so they have room to work. I'm trying to find out what if any responsibility the city has to clear out the debris along our property line. I called the city and got several answers that were irrelevant to the questions I asked. They said I can trim back branches hanging over our property but I can't cut any trees on their property, which would mean I have to move my fence at least 18 inches from my property line. I asked if they have any responsibility for maintaining the property back there, and the answer was that they didn't have any crews available to be pulled off other projects, which of course wasn't what I asked.

    Any feedback or suggestions would be appreciated.
     
  2. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    You might want to talk to your city council member that serves your district. If that fails see if your local TV stations will expose the city's recalcitrance. Or post photos and videos on facebook and/or nextdoor. Sometimes publicity goes a long way.
     
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  3. lemerson

    lemerson Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I appreciate the reply. I have emailed our ward city council person and am awaiting a reply. I'm hoping to find some information about laws or ordinance so I have some legitimate ammo. If it's legally my responsibility I'll take on the project, but it's hard to believe I would be responsible for illegal dumping etc. on city land. I don't want to start a smear campaign unless I'm legally in the right.
     
  4. Michael Wechsler

    Michael Wechsler Administrator Staff Member

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    The issue wouldn't be your dumping on city land, etc. It's more about what rights you may have as a result of another land owner's 'trespass' and the terrible publicity that a council would probably prefer to avoid. You can read a number of similar disputes here between neighbors, such as one having a tree whose branches or roots have entered and/or impacted the adjoining land owner's property. I recall leaning and damaged trees that might topple which require pruning.

    If the path area appears as poorly maintained as implied, a local council member might want to work with you to improve the appearance of the area lest they appear to have been utterly neglectful to the detriment of local residents as well as incurring potential liability for injuries. There is no need to begin with a threatening tone. Try to explain the problem as you would to a neighbor and how the solution could probably be better for all with a little cooperation. If the result is a much nicer looking path that didn't cost the city much and is visible by many passersby, it's a win-win situation for both of you. Good luck.
     
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  5. lemerson

    lemerson Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Thanks for the reply. I agree that it's important to start these things out trying to act in good faith and hope for a good faith response. Unfortunately, I received an email back from my city council member who ran it up to a services director and city manager. In a very friendly tone, they all avoided my question about what if any responsibility the city has to maintain its property. Now four different people at city hall have abruptly dodged the question with answers such as, "we generally do minimal maintenance" on the property. Duh.

    I also got a nice poke in the eye from the city manager who attached a pdf of the application for a permit for "your contractor" to fill out before they clear out the space. So in addition to paying thousands for a new fence, now I get to pay thousands to a contractor to clear out overgrowth on city property. I took that poke as a statement that I'm not allowed to cut anything down myself. I'm afraid the kabuki theater is about to start. I know dang well if I let my yard deteriorate to the point where it was infringing on another parcel of property they would order me to clear it, or they would do it and bill me. I'm not going to accept there's a different principle when the situation is exactly reversed.
     
  6. adjusterjack

    adjusterjack Super Moderator

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    You've hit the bureaucratic wall. Now it's time to go public.
     
  7. Red Kayak

    Red Kayak Well-Known Member

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    Are you familiar with the phrase, "It is easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission"?

    Chances are, if the trees are just overgrown weeds (as opposed to being purposely planted), you could have cleared it yourself without anyone noticing until after the fact.
     
  8. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Maybe you can find a different fencing company who doesn't need to trespass on to another entity's property.
     
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