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Our View....Street law

In spring, the garage sale signs blossom slowly. Come fall, and suddenly the color of the day in Cloquet is orange, and we're not talking blaze orange hunting jackets either. Rather, tiny rectangles of orange paper suddenly appear on area vehicles left parked along the street overnight, advising the owner that winter parking is now in effect.

What is winter parking, the recently arrived resident asks?

Per City Code Section 5.4.05, during the period from Nov. 1 to March 31 of the following year, "No person, persons, firm or corporation shall park any motor vehicle on the streets, alleys, boulevards, sidewalks or public grounds within the corporate limits of the City between the hours of 3 a.m. and 6 a.m."

Leave your vehicle parked on the street and you could pay a price, the orange slips of paper advise.

According to city code:

"It shall be the duty of the Police Department to cause any motor vehicle that is so parked between 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. to be removed and impounded, and the motor vehicle shall not be released until the fees for towing and storage of the vehicle are paid to the bailee holding the vehicle. Those fees will be in addition to any fine otherwise imposed for the violation of this section."

It doesn't matter if there's snow on the ground or a stretch of unseasonably warm weather that keeps the golf courses going past Thanksgiving.

Of course, telling people to move their cars or trucks is one thing. Figuring out where to put them -- particularly in the older central Cloquet neighborhoods -- can be more challenging.

"We're pushing cars off the streets so we can plow, then they go into boulevards and front yards [in places that lack parking]," Cloquet Police Chief Wade Lamirande told City Councilors Tuesday. "We turn a blind eye during winter, but then it's an issue in the spring, when we want them to move those vehicles out of the yard again."

Speaking of vehicles in the yard ...

On Tuesday, councilors and Mayor Bruce Ahlgren heard from Lamirande and Community Development Director Holly Butcher, joined by City Attorney Bill Helwig, about recent coordinated efforts at code enforcement in response to nuisance, building and zoning violations.

Junk cars, abandoned homes, tall grass, broken sidewalks, trees growing through garages and automobiles (yes, really), garbage piling up ... city officials, police and Cloquet Area Fire District Chief Kevin Schroeder respond to a range of complaints.

Here are a couple more city laws you may not be aware that you're breaking:

+ All cars must be registered and have up-to-date license tabs. Even if they don't run. And yes, there is an exception for a car that someone may be repairing/rebuilding.

+ City code says residents must have garbage service. Those who want to haul their own garbage need to request permission from the City Council to do so.

"For some people, it's not a problem," City Administrator Brian Fritsinger told the Councilors during the discussion about people hauling their own garbage and related issues. "Others park a truck in the front yard and wing the garbage out the window until it's full."

For those inclined to tell the city to stuff its rules and regulations and get the heck out of their yard, we understand. But we would ask you to bear in mind that such rules and regulations really are about public safety and quality of life. You may love the look of junk cars spread about the lawn (which hasn't been mowed in years because you consider the entire area one giant organic sculpture) but your neighbors may not share your opinion. And leaving your car parked in the street interferes with the city's ability to safely and effectively clean the street. (Besides, it's pretty darn hard to dig out a car that's been plowed in after a heavy snowstorm.)

Kudos to city employees and police officers for shouldering the thankless task of asking us to be better citizens. Keep up the good work!

Jana Peterson