Council asked to get direction for garage sale sign issue in LF

By Terry Lehrke, News Editor

Residents in the city of Little Falls have been using their vehicles to advertise their garage sales. The city’s sign ordinance does not permit the placing of garage sale signs on property other than the seller’s own yard.

With garage sale season in full swing, Little Falls Council Member Greg Zylka said Monday, that he’s been approached by residents about the issue.

Addressing what he called “a massive amount of garage sales with a massive number of cars with garage sale signs parked,” he said “I hate to take a scab off an old wound, but there’s got to be a way to do it. Other cities do.”

Zylka said he would like to see the city’s attorney look into what could be done.

“I have people coming in and talking to me about it every day,” he said. “It’s not that I can’t handle it, but it’s almost embarrassing to see those vehicles and everything parked around with those garage sales signs on them.”

Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said in some communities residents can get permission from other property owners to put a garage sale sign in their yard.

Zylka said that would free up time for the city’s police department and city staff from “running around pulling them everywhere.”

“If we had a better understanding by the public, maybe it wouldn’t be such a big deal,” said Zylka.

Police Chief Greg Schirmers told the Council officers make it a habit to remove signs from public utility areas, but didn’t look for signs in the rights of way, unless there was a complaint.

He said the department had been dealing with complaints recently.

“On weekends, we wouldn’t be picking up those signs,” said Schirmers. “It would be focused more on city staff. I would like to know how the City Council wants that addressed. Do you want us to be out looking for those signs? I would like some clarity with the new ordinance and how it’s evolved.”

Council Member at Large Brian-Paul Crowder said he was under the impression that if someone called in, the police would take care of it.

Mayor Cathy VanRisseghem said she was under the impression that city staff took care of sign complaints.

“Is it the police department or engineering?” asked Schirmers, indicating it wasn’t specified anywhere how it should be done.

“I would like it to stay with city staff instead of police officers running around town and taking down signs instead of doing other stuff,” said VanRisseghem.

Council President Don Klinker noted city staff doesn’t work weekends.

“I’m not opposed to us doing that,” said Schimers. “But we need direction.”

“I read the court report,” said Zylka. “It looks like there’s more important stuff to worry about than garage sale signs.” He also questioned whether city staff had the time.

“The concern I would have is sometimes it could become confrontational,” said Zylka. “Maybe that’s why it should be police instead of staff.”

“Whether you pull from the police department or the engineer, it’s city staff,” said Schirmers.

Crowder said he’d received a call about a sign in the bike traffic lane. “That’s dangerous,”he said.

Nothing was resolved Monday, but may be discussed at future meeting.

  • robin hensel

    The city will be stumbling all over itself for years to come because of their illegal, (pretextual) sign ordinance and amendments. Judge Kyle ruled in error of law. Council is realizing how their insistence to “control dissent” is costing them in $$ and reputation. The “fiasco” THEY AND CITY STAFF created is far from over. It is interesting that our mayor says she now wants city staff to pick up illegal road right of way signs. At a work session in 2012, I distinctly remember her and all other council members except Alderman Crowder, giving the go ahead to Chief Schirmers when he asked them if they wanted police officers to pick up illegal road right of way signs. I have that audio recorded, of course. It will be interesting to see these councilmen and the mayor squirm when their own words are played back, for the public to hear. League of Mn Cities atty. Paul Reuvers has made it quite clear, that the city should NOT allow ANY off premise signs, including garage sales signs. Toni Wetzel has been lock step with Reuvers recommendations about off premise signs. Now why on earth would Greg Zylka suggest spending more taxpayer $$, to research off premise signs now, when council had an opportunity to say NO to sign ordinance language that dissallowed garage sale off premise signs in 2013? If they wanted to allow off premise garage sale signs (like Bloomington allows)…they missed their chance. Alderman Crowder suggested modeling our sign ordinance after Bloomington’s in order to allow for off premise garage and boutique sales signs. This council including Zylka and the mayor refused to agree with Crowder. They ramrodded through the pretextual sign ordinance without stopping to consider the full ramifications and co$t$ of enforcing it. This just doesn’t make sense. Could it be that the council figured it could go on forever as a “LAWLESS COUNCIL?”

  • Patrick J Bonniwell

    Honestly…Seeing as the taxpayers are paying for this law change…call the mayor. Call the mayor and call the mayor again as well as all the other council members who approved this. The only way the city council is going to hear what the people have to say is if they are the ones hearing the complaints…not the police, and not city engineers.

    They signed up for this, it’s time for them to realize this isn’t just another seat to sit on and do 1/8th the work while having multiple other things going on so they have less time to address city business. You get paid to do this job, it’s time to start doing it. I didn’t go overseas and work 18-20 hour days for 12 months, getting paid about the same… so you can work a 3-4 hour day at your government job while you run around on multiple other boards and/or councils, placing the city on the back burner and making these laws that had OBVIOUS repercussions…how much thought was but into this?

    The biggest thing I remember from this joke of a law change, was the “eye sore,” remark…Council, have you seen the vehicles on the sides of the roads with gaudy signs on their windows or on “wet floor” type sign holders placed on their roofs? You think that’s not an “eye sore”? Whoever proposed this change and whoever seconded it…obviously had 0 thought about what the future impact would be implementing such a law.

    I believe I read another article today that said, “The League stressed, Boyum’s outline said, that Council members have
    been elected to transact all business related to the welfare of the city
    and it is their responsibility to do so in a manner they believe is
    most efficient.” ( ….so this is stuff your hearing, so why isn’t it happening?

    I believe Terry is quoting Zylka here, “I have people coming in and talking to me about it every day. It’s not that I can’t handle it, but it’s almost embarrassing to see those vehicles and everything parked around with those garage sales signs on them.”

    He’s obviously put more thought into it then just hearing about it in a report. People respond to things when it’s in there face. If the council can pawn off the responsibility of hearing about signs to someone else, then it just rolls off their backs. It’s not their problem anymore, whoever it is assigned to deals with the problem . This is a small city and honestly, giving them a call and letting them know does more then reporting it to the police or some random engineer who works for the city.

    Obviously Zylka gets it and the only way the rest of the council gets it is bringing it to their doorstep.

    You drive from one place to another and listen to the radio or pick your nose or think about your day…call and leave a message. You spend hours on Facebook and other social media outlets, why not take 3 minutes to type an email. You sit at your government jobs and chit chat on the phone, why not participate in your community instead of wasting tax payer dollars by “socializing”…do something that impacts your community instead. This is their job to hear the complaints of their residents and they do a wonderful job dodging that bullet by assigning the “hard” parts of their job to other city workers, including giving these tasks to police officers, who are also at the beck and call of the city…even if it’s as mundane as driving 2-3 miles to remove “X” sign from “X” yard…that’s your money just spent to remove paper from a yard.