Canton City Council continues to deal with violators of nuisance ordinance

By : 
Barb Kerns

A great deal of time was spent discussing the old business item on the agenda regarding nuisance properties in the city of Canton during the Wednesday, Sept. 11, City Council meeting.

Danny Whalen, who was present at the meeting, had expressed several issues to the city clerk regarding the council actions directed towards his property.

City Clerk Brock Bergey stated he had requested that Whalen attend the September meeting to directly address the council regarding his property concerns.

Whalen stated he felt he has been targeted and treated unfairly over the years and he felt he was now in compliance with the city’s requests.  

There was considerable discussion regarding the ongoing history of the multiple property ordinance violations spanning over a minimum of 25 years with no resolution as well as the significant cost incurred by the city for these violations.    

It was noted that although the property’s appearance was greatly improved for the 2019 Canton Day Off celebration, there was no assurance that this improvement would be maintained and reversion to its prior state was likely given the property owner’s past actions.

Whalen also stated that he wanted the city to construct a fence around his property to restrict public traffic during the city celebrations, which was denied. 

According to Bergey’s conversation with the Fillmore County assistant attorney, regarding charges issued in August of 2018, Whalen had been issued a continuance until October due to his not being prepared to enter a plea at his August hearing.

Bergey explained that the rescheduled court appearance could be canceled should the city find that Whalen was in compliance by that date. 

Following a very lengthy discussion centering on Whalen’s upcoming court date of Oct. 8, there was no change to the council’s position regarding the nuisance violation charges.  

All Fillmore County court proceedings will continue as scheduled.

There was also some significant discussion on the status of the former Canton School building, owned by Steve Popplewell. It, too, is the issue of some ordinance violations.

Bergey told the council a second notice was mailed due to the property owner failing to come into compliance with the city ordinances.

The city continues to be concerned with the lack of attention given to the property as well as potential safety issues due to the building’s condition.

Also of concern was the lack of response to non-compliance with a request sent Aug. 16 regarding an overgrown plant on the north side of the structure.

There was damage from vandalism on Aug. 16-17 and it was observed the points of entry to the building are not being secured. These matters also needed to be addressed and cleaned up.

Popplewell had been given a compliance date of Sept. 6 to achieve significant progress, with the next step being notification given to the sheriff’s office to proceed with enforcement action.

Bergey stated he had inspected the property on Sept. 10 and that the windows damaged by the vandalism had been repaired and secured but the north side of the building has not been mowed and no other recent building maintenance was noted. 

It was decided to invite Popplewell to attend the October meeting to discuss the future of his building.

Other properties in violation were also discussed. 

The Holzwarth property status, also continuing to be in violation, was updated.

Holzwarth had not completed the cleanup of her property as agreed and Bergey had communicated with the property owner via email on Sept. 6, with a phone response received Sept. 10.

As of that email, Holzwarth stated she will be communicating with her potential buyer regarding the responsibility of them taking care of the property cleanup and costs. She said she would be keeping the city posted.

A citation was issued to Joel Torgerson by the sheriff’s office for nuisance ordinance violations, following city notifications mailed July 15 and Aug. 8.

The Jeremy and Crystal Scrabeck property on South Main has had no update, with the city waiting for contact from the owners.

Other properties in violation touched upon belong to Mary Lund, West Canton Avenue; Rick Nelson, located on Main Street between the Depot and antique store; Lyle Olson (deceased), East Canton Avenue; Donna Oselka, East Canton Avenue; and Mark Stutzman, North Main Street.

Other old business items included the electronic sign update. Bergey reported that the expected delivery date for the welcome sign is Sept. 18, with scheduled installation to be the week of Sept. 23. 

Other business

A building permit was issued to David Kimber for the construction of a 40 x 60 shop on the vacant lot to the south of his Main Street home. The plan was reviewed and approval was given as all set back and city ordinance requirements have been met.

A request for a building permit to install a fence on the Bradford property was determined to not be necessary.  No action was required after the proposed installation was reviewed. 

Approval to accept the Canton Fire Department donation of $2,000 was approved and the subsequent payment to the Public Employees Retirement Account was also approved.

The maximum amount of 10 percent for the 2020 tax levy was approved, with it noted that this amount will be adjusted accordingly once the actual budget is determined. It was also noted that the levy amount was required to be filed by Sept. 30. Due to the city clerk staffing change, the budget determination is somewhat behind schedule but these numbers will be worked upon and presented when finalized. 

Sheriff John DeGeorge provided the August police report of Canton activity.  This report was reviewed with it noted that although details were not provided, the suspicious activity calls were being investigated. DeGeorge had expressed an interest in attending a future Canton City Council meeting, as well as setting up a future joint meeting with Mabel and Harmony.

Attendance at the scheduled Mabel-Canton School Board joint meeting on Sept. 18 at 6 p.m. was discussed.  Cindy Shanks, Brock Bergey and, if available, another council member are planning on attending. 

The necessary repairs of the Mitson House were discussed. According to Mayor Donivee Johnson, there is water damage as well as general cosmetic issues with the building, including roof repair and wiring issues needing attention. The suggestion of utilizing battery lighting in some locations in the house was presented due to the high cost of rewiring the whole building. Also mentioned was the possibility of relocating the memorabilia to another location should the repairs on the building be cost prohibitive. This was a discussion only matter, with the possibility of acquiring a general repair person in the spring to handle the necessary items mentioned.

The maintenance building furnace also needs to be replaced, possibly with a radiant heater or a hanging furnace.  Jon Nordsving, maintenance, is to get estimates for both options as well as determine the feasibility of changing to a radiant system. 

Due to the lateness in the year, it was decided to postpone holiday street light decoration updates until next year.   Three are not usable and one needs repair, but since there are several options available, the delay will give time to make the best choice in style and value. 

The ZZ Tap current liquor license was discussed. Due to pending charges for Vernon Zafft, holder of the license, the future of this license was questioned. It was decided that since due legal process has not yet been finalized, there would be no city action regarding revocation or suspension of the business license. 

Procedures for handling noise ordinance violators were also discussed as there had been a resident complaint made to the city office. The ordinance was reviewed, with restrictions on excessive noise being weekdays from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m. and weekend and holiday from 9 p.m. to 9 a.m.

As with any other ordinance issues, a letter was to initially be sent by the city clerk to the party involved, outlining the ordinance hours and restrictions as outlined on file, as well as possible consequences for non-compliance.

Winter parking restriction updates to the Canton City ordinances to allow for snow removal as well as the establishment of extended parking limitations were discussed. Alternate-side parking, modeled after Mabel’s ordinance, was considered as well as the possible limitation of 24 hours of consecutive parking for a vehicle in the same spot in a street or alley location were discussed as possible updates. The current Canton parking ordinance has no time or hour limitations, allowing for snow emergencies only.

There will be a special meeting held on Oct. 9, at 7 p.m., prior to the regular monthly meeting, for city resident input on proposed updates to the current city of Canton parking ordinances.