City attorney on garage sale sign issue in Little Falls: ‘Leave it alone’

By Terry LehrkeNews Editor

For the past couple of years, residents in Little Falls have taken to using their vehicles to advertise their garage sales.

It started as the city of Little Falls updated its sign ordinance and enforcement of it. At that time, the city was in the middle of a lawsuit brought by resident Robin Hensel over the ordinance’s constitutionality and restrictions on free speech.

The city settled with Hensel earlier this year.

Several weeks ago, Council Member Greg Zylka asked whether the Council could look at and deal with garage sale signs on cars, possibly allowing garage salers to post their signs in a neighbor’s yard with permission.

He said having cars parked with garage sales signs along city streets was “embarrassing” and that residents had visited with him about the signs on parked vehicles. In addition to being an eyesore, he said a lot of residents feel it creates more of a hazard than garage sale signs.

Zylka said he understood from the attorney that helped with the lawsuit that the city could allow one sign on a person’s property as long as it wasn’t in the right of way and one off their property, as long as permission was granted from the other resident.

“That’s what I understood,” said Zylka. “I don’t know if it has to go back to the Planning Commission.

“No,” said City Attorney Toni Wetzel. “You can’t have off-premise signs.”

“We can’t make decisions on right of way,” said Council Member Frank Gosiak. Everyone, he said, wanted to use the state aid roads. “We are not going to alleviate the problem with vehicles, because that’s where they are.”

Zylka questioned whether the city was taking away businesses’ ability to do business, such as a person who purchased property behind the radio station, but couldn’t put a sign near Haven Road, because it would be off-premise.

“It could be something the Planning Commission could look at, to see if there is some alternative ways to do this,” said Gosiak. “Maybe it’s time.”

In deciding whether or not to open up the garage sale sign discussion again, Council Member Jeremy Hanfler said he’d like to have attorneys look at the idea first.

“You’re going to get a ‘no’ from me,” said Wetzel. “You just got the blessing of a federal judge on your ordinance and now you want to crack it open again. Absolutely you can — the question is ‘should you.’” she said.

The problem with garage sale signs, she said, was who was going to give permission, who was going to monitor it, check it or patrol for it.

“That’s going to be the problem,” said Wetzel. “We’re not done with litigation yet; nothing is completely, entirely wrapped up. We’re just talking about this now. Even two years from now, I can tell you the answer you’re going to get from the League (of Minnesota Cities) is ‘Leave it alone.’ It’s not perfect, but it’s been blessed and crossed and we’ve been told that this is OK. We start tampering with it and crack it open again and you might run into problems.

“I’m certainly not going to recommend you do it, but of course it’s your choice,” said the city attorney.

“What frosts me,” said Zylka, “is when everybody comes to me and says, ‘Every other community can do it, why can’t we.’”

Wetzel said, “Not every other community has been through the litigation we have been through. That’s the answer. Here we are, this is how I have to recommend we deal with it.”

Zylka said he could live with that. “I told you it was a scab on an old wound.”

 

  • Shawn Borwege

    “What frosts me,” said Zylka, “is when everybody comes to me and says, ‘Every other community can do it, why can’t we.’”

    If every other community can do it, then what stops people from moving there. Having a Block on garage sale signs just gives the residents one more reason to move!

    • robin hensel

      Shawn….I have a better idea…..everyone that has a garage sale should just find somebody who will allow their off premise garage sale sign in their yard….city and POLICE turn a blind eye already to these signs.

      • Shawn Borwege

        Oh yes Police should make this their top priority. Forget about the drugs in the community and focus on garage signs. This will be my last comment on this matter because my point is not to be against the ordinance, but more against the fact this whole issue is making Little Falls a place to disperse.

        • robin hensel

          Shawn…..fact is that that at least ONE SEASONED POLICE OFFICER just yesterday couldn’t even CLEARLY IDENTIFY an illegal off premise sign and chose to NOT ENFORCE THE CURRENT SIGN ORDINANCE UNIFORMLY ! ! ! I have PROOF and this is a PROBLEM !

          • Mitch Rapp

            Robin. You are delusional if you think our fine boys in blue need to concentrate on signage. Give it a rest, or better yet, get a life.

        • robin hensel

          By the way Shawn…..ANDREW HENDERSON (Little Canada City Council) and I WILL be running for office…..different city..same $hi# ! ! ! A free speech violation is pretty much the same no matter where you live.

  • central mn

    “What frosts me,” said Zylka, “is when everybody comes to me and says, ‘Every other community can do it, why can’t we.’”
    Why can’t we??…It is all the doing of ONE person in town. I think people should start calling “that” person and ask “them” why they can’t put up a sign and stop putting all of it on the city council.

    • robin hensel

      Central Mn…..your statement is absolutely FALSE ! ! ! The city council under the advisement of the PLANNING COMMISSION AND CITY ATTY 40 years ago CHOSE TO implement an UNCONSTITUTIONAL SIGN ORDINANCE that was mostly COMPLAINT DRIVEN……and chose to NON UNIFORMLY ENFORCE this UNCONSTITUTIONAL OLD SIGN ORDINANCE for decades. The city ITSELF ….ERECTED AN ILLEGAL “we support our troops” banner ……then chose to TARGET me because of my MESSAGE(content of SPEECH) ……because complaints were lodged due to my dissenting messages on my signs. If you are going to post comments i strongly suggest they be FACTUAL COMMENTS or you may regret posting at all. Your former and CURRENT elected officials AND CITY ATTORNEY AND CITY STAFF are 100% responsible for ALL of this…..including the LAWSUIT. If my rights had not been violated i would have had NO REASON TO SUE ! ! !

      • central mn

        Robin, if you are looking for a pity party maybe you should invite your friends over and stop dragging everybody else through this mess that you started!!

        • robin hensel

          Central mn….what part of TRUTH dont you get?? What i suspicion is that you dont CARE ABOUT THE TRUTH.

      • Rick Witte

        Robin, is it “FACTUAL” that the City targeted you because of your message or is that your opinion? Perhaps some of your neighbours complained because of the eyesore you created in their neighbourhood.

        As to your rights to Free Speech being violated we do not yet know if that is factual or not. At this point it is your opinion. Perhaps you should separate your facts and opinions.

        • Jody Scott Olson

          If eye sore was the issue explain to me how having cars parked all over the shoulder of the roads with signs on top improves the aesthetics of our community?

          • Rick Witte

            Jody, does the City have any regulations restricting signage on vehicles? Seems to me they do not just as other cities do not. Nor would it be practical to restrict parking in residential areas unless there was a legitimate purpose.

            While garage sale signs on vehicles may not be the most pleasant to view they are afforded the same rights as Robin with her vehicles used as signage. do you then purport that Robin has more rights than any other citizen?

  • bill

    Too bad this is even an issue. You get one crazy individual that makes a scene and makes life more difficult for others, all because of their own selfishness.

    • robin hensel

      Careful now…..that sounds like defamatory speech Bill. I would recommend a better choice of words unless you are swimming in $$$.

      • Mitch Rapp

        I don’t recall Bill naming any names Robin….

      • Rick Witte

        “robin hensel

        Shawn Borwege

        3 days ago

        By the way Shawn…..ANDREW HENDERSON (Little Canada City Council) and I WILL be running for office..”

        That being said, Robin, and since it seems you have made your announcement as to your candidacy you might want to suck it up Lady! Politics is not for the faint of heart and if you plan on suing anyone who mocks or throws stones you might as well hire a whole firm. A waste of money but you can threaten all you want.

        • robin hensel

          Rick Witte…you needn’t worry abouy my level of courage.

          • Rick Witte

            Cant really think of a reason that I would worry at all. It is not really about courage, but rather about your seemingly thin skin! Seems rather odd, to me at least, for you to start your Mayoural Campaign with veiled threats of lawsuits for those speaking, or writing their opinions of you.

            Certainly the level of discourse should remain above board in the coming Circus Season, but I would think that you would expect certain segments of the community would not look favourably upon your ascending to the Mayours office. Perhaps Wal-Mart has thicker skin on sale this week.

          • Rick Witte

            Robin, in reviewing my comments I find none which could be construed as judging you as you purported. Perhaps you meant that my assumptions, rather than judgement, were based on not knowing you. I would have to offer that while my statements are not based on personal knowledge of you they are in fact based on what is presented by you and your friends.

            As I stated Jody made the statement that you planned on running against Mr. Zylka not me! You even hit the like button and made no effort to correct or otherwise refute what she presented. There are also your statements.

            Yes there are potentially three options which exist for you. There is the 1st Ward seat which will be up for election. There will also be the at-large seat if your friend Councilman Crowder chooses not to run. If he runs I find it highly unlikely that you would seek to unseat your friend. And of course there is the Mayours position which is up for grabs. So with that, and if Councilman Crowder does not run, you do certainly have three options.

            Being an off year election, with potentially less voters making it to the polls, you might well do better than your 3-1 loss in your last attempt at the 1st Ward seat. Of course if the Council decides to put a referendum for the Local Option Sales Tax on the ballot that could well enhance turnout. The way I read the law governing such referendums they must pass a resolution sometime in early July to qualify for the November ballot. In a City wide contest, such as Mayour or the at-large seat, no telling how you would fair.

            As to being first in putting out your phone number and e-mail address the only first you have is posting on the roadway. Otherwise, in the last election I saw a few campaign ads which featured phone numbers and e-mail addresses. It seems that without having roadway signs there do exist knowledgeable members of the Community who know how to reach a Council person, or Mayour, with concerns.

      • Chris Lange

        In the end, I have to wonder if $$$ is what it is all about. I think someone has been exposed.

  • LF Taxpayer

    There are approximately 8500 residents of this city, we are being extorted from by one resident; it would be little different if she knocked on my door and stuck a gun in my face and told me to fork over whatever my share is to cover her actions. Great example of a narcissist DFLer

    • robin hensel

      Wrong again

    • robin hensel

      LF TAXPAYER…. I am NOT a democrat and the Democratic Farmer Labor Party of my childhood is long gone…..they all gravitate to the center. Not my style at all. I will NEVER align with a party that doesnt make “forever homes” for all children and breastmilk a birthright that is government guaranteed. Problem is …..NONE of you know me at all. You think you do but that is NOT factual.

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