Cars parked in driveway are public safety hazard, MN court says

What we have here is a public safety problem, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.

A Minnesota law requiring collector cars to be “screened” from public view has survived a challenge from a Cleveland Avenue, St. Paul man who buried two of them under tarps.

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled today that neither the tarps nor the fence that John Krenik built to screen the cars from an unhappy neighbor, satisfied the language of the state law, which says:

Pioneer, classic, collector vehicles, collector military vehicles, or street rods, licensed or unlicensed, operable or inoperable, may be stored in compliance with local government zoning and ordinances on their owners’ property, provided that the vehicles and any outdoor storage areas they may require are maintained in such a manner that they do not constitute a health or environmental hazard and are screened from ordinary public view by means of a fence, shrubbery, rapidly growing trees or other appropriate means. The appropriate local agency or authority may inform an owner of the owner’s failure to comply with these requirements, and may order the vehicles removed from the outdoor storage area if the owner fails to comply with these requirements within 20 days after the warning

Someone complained about Krenik’s two cars at his home on Cleveland Avenue so, after a warning from a city inspector, Krenik built a fence to “screen” the vehicles.

But, the roof of the car was still visible from next door, so City Council ruled him in violation.

Today, the Minnesota Court of Appeals upheld the ruling, saying if people can tell there’s a car there, it’s not screened.

“The city argues that the vehicles’ presence must be hidden from ordinary public view, or in other words, that Krenik’s efforts are insufficient because a person could tell that cars are located under the tarps and behind the fence,” Judge Rene Worke wrote on behalf of a three-judge panel. “Krenik argues that the vehicles must be screened so that a person cannot see the condition of the vehicles and, thus, cannot tell whether the vehicles are “junk” cars. Both interpretations are reasonable; thus, the statute is ambiguous.”

But Judge Worke concluded that the condition of vehicles in a driveway doesn’t matter, one of the few times the beauty of a Model T was invoked in a decision from the Court of Appeals.

Moreover, Krenik’s claim that the legislature enacted section 168.10, subdivision 1e, solely for aesthetic purposes is unpersuasive in light of the scope of the statute. Krenik argues that in enacting the statute, the sole “mischief to be remedied” is hiding the appearance of an unsightly collector vehicle. See Minn. Stat. § 645.16(3). Such an interpretation, however, is unreasonable because the statute also encompasses vehicles that do not create an “eyesore,” such as a well-maintained Ford Model T registered as a pioneer vehicle.

The law is as much about public safety as aesthetics, she concluded. Having the cars out in the open could lead to vandalism. And she noted that because junk yards must be screened from highways because they could distract drivers, the two cars could also pose a distraction.

  • Kassie

    Could you get rid of the collector plates, get regular plates, call it a regular car, then be allowed to park it there? Or could you park them in the street right in front of your neighbor’s house and just move them every three days? Also, maybe consider getting a bouncy house every weekend and loud polka music and inviting over 20 of your closest friends to show them how much worse it could be.

    • According to the court opinion, there was an additional Buick parked there that didn’t have tabs. So he got tabs and then he was good to go. The only issue were the two cars that hadn’t moved in six months. Do collector plates not have tabs?

      But, yeah, there’s no end of ways to escalate a neighborhood feud.

      • jon

        I don’t think collectors plates do need to have valid tabs displayed. Not sure if it’s a one time fee to get collectors plates, or if it’s an annual tax like regular plates….

        I know you can buy (eBay) a valid MN license plate from the year your car was made and use that as your “collector plate.” I believe it can also be a plate that has tabs on it from the year your car was made (even if the plate is older than the car).

      • Bob Ingrassia

        No tabs on collector plates. That’s why they’re so awesome, says the guy with a ’67 Barracuda.

    • jon

      I don’t know about st. paul, but in my neighborhood there are noise ordinances…. there are exemptions to those ordinances for snow removal equipment, and cars.

      Classic cars only need to have the same standard equipment as when they were manufactured…. I think starting a nice rumbly 350 engine without a muffler or catalytic converter, at 2-3 am in order to move it every 3 days might be a good reminder of just how nice it was when those cars were parked in his driveway.

  • MarkUp

    This is why we can’t have nice things.

  • Leroy

    So tarps would be ok, so long as he strung them up in such a way to make it so a person wouldn’t know there are cars under them? Sounds like he just needs to invest in a few tent poles.

  • jon

    “Having the cars out in the open could lead to vandalism.”

    Seems like an extreme bit of mental gymnastics there…

    What is to stop some one from tagging the screen that is around the cars? Are the screens also against city ordinances? What about them Trees in the photo, they are basically just asking for toilet paper to be thrown up in them… better cut them down too!

    Someone in my town had their little library burnt down over the weekend… were they just asking for it by putting a little library up in the first place?

    And we quickly descend into victim blaming…

    • Owen Barney Good III

      Sounds like some victim blaming there. Maybe just…don’t vandalize

  • MrE85

    “What we have here is a public safety problem, the Minnesota Court of Appeals has ruled.” I saw what you did there, Collins. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oik6dXm-0l0

  • Rob

    I live in the TC metro area, a block away from a guy who keeps a weed-enshrined junk car in his driveway. In his backyard, behind a falling-down fence that doesn’t do much to screen them from public view, he’s got several 70s-era junk cars that are totally kaput. No restoration of any kind is going on. I think the notions that the cars could be considered a nuisance or a safety hazard are far-fetched, but the cars are major eyesores that don’t do much for nearby property values. Admittedly, it’s a first world problem, but I’m still glad he isn’t my next door neighbor.

  • Bear at EatPeople dot gov

    “And she noted that because junk yards must be screened from highways because they could distract drivers, the two cars could also pose a distraction.”

    Well, hell… as long as we’re theorizing about remote possibilities, why don’t we outlaw houses that are too aesthetically pleasing? A nice Victorian or Craftsman in an attractive color scheme could easily distract a driver as well. By the same logic, runners who are in excessively good shape will now have to ply their trade in several layers of bulky clothing. Let’s keep at it, and someday we can finally live in our dream society: Lowry’s “The Giver” meets Vonnegut’s “Harrison Bergeron”.

  • Anna

    Considering what my family is going through now in Southeast Louisiana, the grumpy neighbor really has nothing to complain about. My brother got 4 feet of floodwater in his house and my twin sister is now without a teaching job from the flooding.

    The visible roof of a classic vehicle is minuscule potatoes compared to the misery those folks are going through right now.

    Just to put it in perspective…

    • Bear at EatPeople dot gov

      “I can still see the roof” is where a maybe, *maybe* legitimate concern for ordinance enforcement jumped the shark and clearly emerged as a matter of a nagging neighbor pursuing his adversary by any means at his command. I’m surprised the judiciary didn’t find it beneath its dignity to be used as a cudgel in a petty private feud.

      • BJ

        >judiciary didn’t find it beneath its dignity to be used as a cudgel in a petty private feud.

        90% of the Judiciary is all about ‘petty’ private feuds.

        • The COA didn’t rule on a petty feud. It ruled on a Minnesota statute that it agreed was unclear.

          And now it’s not. That’s the job of the COA. It sets a precedent in determining the meaning of laws passed by the Legislasture.

          • BJ

            Exactly.

    • And their misery is eclipsed by Aleppo.

      We have to live the lives we have.

      [Others always have it worse but that doesn’t invalidate the daily concerns of the lives we live.]

      • Anna

        “Charity begins at home.”

    • Jeff Miletich

      Minnesota – land of 10,000 anal retentives.

  • Gary F

    John Krenik is not well liked by City Hall. The whole thing started as a way to make his life miserable then snowballed from there.

  • Curmudgeon

    Isn’t the solution to clear out the trash in the garage and store the collector cars there? Build a shed for everything else wasting space in the garage.

    This is still a dumb law.

  • Veronica

    Cars not in daily use and under tarps can very easily pose a hazard; children can climb into them and easily become trapped and die (yes, happens all the time), or they can become habitats for wild animals. Left too long, even when covered, exposed to the elements may lead to degradation of the vehicle and hazardous liquids may leak from the car.

    Old cars not being used are dangerous and should be treated as such.

    • Tucker

      What if they are locked?

      • Veronica

        For kids? That’s fine, but the other reasons listed above still stand.

        • Lee Marvin’s Ghost

          in your opinion. Factually, not so much…

      • Rob

        Go check.

    • jon

      Won’t some one please think of the children!

      Though… a car that is unused is experiencing far less wear on the parts that degrade within a life time than one that is used…. bottom hose on the coolant seems like the most likely culprit for a substantial leak, and that should be replaced every 200k miles of use… and that will last longer without the stress of being heated and cooled, and twisted and torqued…

      Cars that are regularly driven seem to pose a much larger risk to children than those that aren’t… what with them hitting children, polluting, and having the opportunity to leak while parked in places where children are more likely to be…

      If we are going to think of the children maybe we should be talking about locking all cars away some place safe where no child could ever be able to get near them…

      • Rob

        Even rabid skunks need some place to live…

        • jon

          They’ll find a place with or without a collector car parked in the driveway.

    • Wes Eisenschenk

      Did you really say they’re “dangerous”? Please post statistics that support your claim that this happens “all the time” and how it’s more prevalent than a normally driven vehicle.

  • Mike Worcester

    Can this be considered more of an difficulty in urban/suburban areas than in rural areas? When you think about how close in proximity homes are, so-called eyesore items are more noticeable?

    • Good question. In my suburban town, the big deal is trash toters. They have to be “screened” too. I don’t think it’s particularly well enforced, however.

      • Rob

        and doesn’t woodbury also have lots of areas where on – street parking is prohibited? what’s the rationale for that?

        • No, only in the winter. Nov 1- April 1 for snow removal.

        • Amy

          year round in Burnsville.

          • Rob

            what does the city give as rationale for the prohibition?

  • Is it a fit of jealousy that causes the neighbor to complain? Because, what is not to love about a vintage car? I said hats-off to MY neighbor who parked his Model A Ford in his driveway many summer nights.

    • Rob

      Model A Ford in nice, running condition, good; trashed-out ’72 el Camino on blocks for several years, not so much, methinks…

      • If the photo above is of the actual vehicles involved, I don’t see either on blocks. But, yeah. An El Camino is just rude. 😉

        • jon

          El Caminos are awesome.

          It’s the Rancharo you need to be leary of.

          • Clinton Anderson

            and the rampage… fear those..

          • jon

            I had to google that one…
            I may have thrown up in my mouth a little bit.

      • jlenoreb

        Did you drive to the address or are you assuming you know what’s parked there?

        • Rob

          Again, not talking about the cars in the photo on this News Cut post.

  • Al

    I’m pretty sure this means our neighbor’s fluorescent tie-dyed cars (yes, multiple) are a nuisance. Or, they could be, if any of us didn’t have anything better to care about than someone’s CAR. I mean, really, people.

  • Jeff

    What a wonderful example of a nanny state law.

    • Or an example of zoning. I suppose some people see it as the same thing.

      • Amy

        interesting tho, isn’t it, that there are no restrictions on cars in driveways in wealthy environs .. amazing how those zoning laws work. And they drive up the cost of housing. And they keep us in the 20th century. Property feud? People without money thinking they have money. The days where people can look to their residences as a pot of gold investment are long gone. and this attitude (and the zoning that comes from it) are now no longer relevant.

        • The restrictions are a state law. They apply in the wealthy neighborhoods and the poor one. Whether they’re enforced is another matter. I contend they’re more likely to be enforced in the pricier neighborhoods.

    • Rob

      Have you got any junk cars in your driveway? I’m guessing not. Also guessing you wouldn’t appreciate having a neighbor with a bunch of junk cars in their driveway. If so, you’re a nanny state supporter, despite any protestations to the contrary.

      • Scott Nielsen

        1. The cars in question were not ‘junk’cars.
        2. One’s respective “appreciation” or disapproval is irrelevant.
        3. Obviously, the law had some ambiguity, and as such, should have been sent back to the legislature.
        4. There is a nanny state, but that problem doesn’t apply here. Poor legislation and inept judges are to blame for this fiasco.

      • jlenoreb

        Since WHEN are collector cars junk? Please go back and READ the second paragraph! Although one could question what is behind that double garage door, more collector cars? I’m sure the neighbor is extremely jealous and is making trouble just because…..it’s has happened plenty of times before!!!!!

        • Jim E

          The barriers to getting a collector plate are pretty low in MN (any car older than 20 years qualifies) and the financial incentives to get one (low one-time fee, no annual tab fees) are fairly high. A rusted out ’95 Ford Escort would meet the criteria.

          My suburb requires that cars parked in a driveway or on the street have current tabs. Since collector plates don’t require yearly tabs, how do you propose we regulate folks who might abuse the system to turn their driveways into a mini auto salvage yard? While not perfect, requiring screening seems like a workable compromise.

          • Tim

            Technically, though, a car with a collector plate can’t be for a car you drive for daily use (but I don’t know how easily they could enforce that), and you have to have at least one other vehicle with regular plates.

          • Rob

            That’s how the guy down the block from me does it — his junked out, engineless, up-on-blocks ’72 el Camino, which takes pride of place in his driveway for all the world to see, has collector plates on it.

        • Rob

          Never said the cars in this particular case were junkers; I have no first-hand knowledge of the situation. If someone wanted to park their ’56 fully restored ‘Vette in my driveway, that would be awesome. The trouble is that when a car gets to be old enough, you can very readily get a collector plate for it, whether it is in really good shape and actually runs, thereby looking great in the driveway — or is riddled with rust, has a fender or two missing, has several cracked windows, is up on blocks and is occupied by a racoon family or two.

  • gazewaze

    …there’s one (of those neighbors) on every block. And we moved in right next to her.

    • Amy

      i can guarantee you she is probably somewhere .. voicing the same sentiments re: you.

  • Steve E Knight

    Having a door or windows on your home could lead to a break in. Having a body could lead to being shot, stabbed, burned, punched, or otherwise assaulted. Do I need to tell you carrying money or credit cars should be illegal? Because…it is the VICTIM’S fault when crime is committed against them. Criminals have rights, you don’t.

  • Andrew

    I lived in this neighborhood for 7 years until we moved late last year. The article only scratches the surface of this guy’s nuisance and the apparently dated Google street image provided in the article barely illustrates the ongoing issue. The “collection” has grown to include 5 junk vehicles parked in the driveway with a mobile 3′ picket fence set up loosely in the driveway in some sort of attempt to comply with the ordinance. There are also 3 vehicles (two minivans and one truck) permanently parked on the street that are stacked full of garbage. All of this and the guy has what appears to be a 40′ x 60′ garage on his property immediately behind his residence. He could easily conceal his collection.

    • Dan

      The Street View image was taken in August 2014, approximately 9 months before the initial inspection.

      Given what you’ve described, I think there’s a good chance the 40’x60′ out building is already filled to capacity. In any case, it doesn’t look like there’s access for something as big as a vehicle to get back there.

      I don’t have a problem with a law stating that vehicles with collector plates can’t just be collected in a driveway. ‘Safety’ is an interesting rationale, though, without additional caveats about the condition of the vehicle(s).

      Edit: thinking about it a little more, maybe the legislature figures, why burden the local communities with figuring out, case-by-case, whether each collector vehicle is a safety hazard or not… just state that collector vehicles have to be stored out of public view (which they did).

      • Andrew

        You’re probably right regarding the capacity of the outbuilding. There is sufficient access either from the front or the rear of his property, again, the picture doesn’t do this justice. To the right of his property is an open alley with immediate access. The gentleman in question also owns the property on either side of the rail spur behind his house which provides for two tracks of land leading to the building that are both approximately 30′ in width.

        • Ah, the other side of the story.

          Thanks for this perspective…

          • Andrew

            No problem. It’s always entertaining reading one side of a predetermined narrative and then the subsequent speculation by individuals who only have one source, their imaginations and an incessant need to express an opinion:) This particular situation is one of many issues the neighborhood has had with this individual, granted it’s the only one that sought the attention of the Court of Appeals but it’s an accumulative nuisance to say the least. Anyone remember the news report of the individual who was caught ripping school board opponents’ signs out of front yards in the same area? Shall I go on?

          • Oh, it’s THAT guy…

            Nice…

          • How can a COA opinion be a one-sided narrative?

          • Andrew

            My apologies Bob, I wasn’t referring to your piece as a one-sided narrative, rather, the opinion of the inevitable crowd that flocks to the comments section with very little factual basis for the their position. I’d also like to clarify that I wasn’t questioning the COA’s ruling with my description of the ongoing nuisance. My attempt was to provide more context and a rebuttal to those who were outraged at the interpretation of the law to include two harmless “classic cars”. It’s individuals with properties like this who push the limits of what’s acceptable and provide a need for the law to exist. Unfortunately, implementation of the law often prohibits those on the other end of the spectrum from parking true classic cars as well. See “One man’s trash is another man’s treasure”.

            The neighborhood has tried on numerous occasions, both on an individual basis and collectively, to persuade a clean-up of the property without much progress. I agree with a previous poster, it would appear that the neighbors finally found an ordinance with traction.

            My apologies again, my intention was not to take away from or dilute your reporting in any way. Keep up the good work.

          • Ah. I see. No apologies necessary.

  • jlenoreb

    Next the headline will tout “Geraniums and other flowers are too colorful and are a distraction to drivers driving by thus they must be outlawed! And it would tempt young children to enter the lawn to look and touch!” I actually had people park and take pictures of my flowers one year! I never questioned if they parked legally or not!!!!

    • oldcarman

      There are subdivision association bylaws that are enforceable such as the type & color of your mailbox, the color of your house or shutters or front door, leaving your garage door open, and many other arcane, trivial “conditions” of group living that trump individual property rights.
      As recently as the early ’50s, people of color were even barred from living in a sub. Now we are seeing over 50 or 55 condos or subs, that do not allow younger residents. Somehow, that is legal!

  • Veronica

    Things I’ve learned: people really, really get upset about not being able to park old cars where they darn well please. Good job, outrage machine.

    • FYI, at least three people have been banned from commenting who made comments here (since deleted). That might be a record.

      Also, for those people saying “is this what the Court of Appeals spends its time on?”

      Well, yes. They didn’t just rule on one guy in one neighborhood. They ruled on an entire law. That’s its job. They do a good job. If you don’t think the law is any good, you have to take that up with the Legislature. They’re the ones who enacted it, not the COA.

      The question here is is the law based on the appearance of an individual car in a situation like this? No. It applies to all cars.
      Does “screened” under the law mean hidden, or just shaded from view from a particular position? Hidden. Completely.
      Is the law about aesthetics alone? No.

      • Jeff

        Wow, see what happens when you take the day off? A tear in the space-time continuum opens up and releases trolls onto a very mundane article about classic cars in a driveway.

        Veronica, I think a lot of people take the idea of property rights very seriously, when people are told by government they cannot put a piece of property they own onto another piece of property they own they become very upset. It’s one thing if property values are dropping because a neighbor is putting cars up on blocks his yard and oil is being spilled into the environment but this is his 2 classic cars in his own driveway…seems a bit silly to even bother with invoking a state law with a neighbor over this. I’m guessing this guy pissed the neighbor off over something very different…or it’s one of those retired Nazi neighbors who runs around looking for violations.

        • Veronica

          Are you using Nazi in it’s literal definition? Or as inflated rhetoric?

          • Jeff

            I’m using the term Nazi as in how Seinfeld used it (i.e. Soup Nazi), strict enforcement of the rules…

          • Veronica

            Yick.

        • The two cars haven’t moved in six months. We don’t know what shape they’re in. For purposes of the law, they COULD be up on blocks. They COULD be an eyesore. Had the COA ruled differently, there’d be nothing you could do if they were.

        • Andrew

          I can personally attest that these two “classic cars” are nothing approaching even the most flexible definition of classic. As stated in another post, I lived in the same neighborhood, less than two blocks away from this property for 7 years. The picture included in the article is extremely underrepresentative of the actual. The two cars shown are rotten hunks of metal from the early 80’s with flat tires, leaking oil and shredded interiors. These are only part of the collection. The last time I was by not too long ago, there were two additional “vehicles” of equal caliber in the driveway that obviously hadn’t moved in a long time. In addition to that, he’s had two minivans with flat tires parked in the street and stacked full of garbage for months. Another decrepit truck is parked in the street, appears to be in running condition but is also heaped full of garbage. This isn’t a person attempting to restore anything or even attempting to rid himself of junk, he’s a classic hoarder in every sense of the term.

          I find it amusing that so many chime in with their own argumentative spins on reality when their only basis is a briefly informative article. Have we really lost all trust in any governmental investigative process that we think any ruling must be an overreach of authority? Quite frankly, I’m amused and frustrated that it’s taken this long for any sort of correction to be levied against the property. I will state for the record that I have never filed a complaint against this individual or property, nor do I work for any government entity. Take my statement for what’s it’s worth, zero exaggeration and no personal agenda other than seeing an individual finally comply with the rule of law. Feel free to ask for any clarification on anything I’ve stated.

          • Rob

            Thank you!

          • You folks are ALL missing the point of the court decision.

            It doesn’t MATTER what the condition of the car is under the law.

            It doesn’t matter even a little bit.

  • blindexecutioner

    Couldn’t he just park them in the street in front of his neighbor’s house and move them every once in awhile so that they are not considered “stored” but actually in use? Obviously they would be less safe but is it against the law to park a car in the street? If he can find a way to annoy his neighbor even more but following the law maybe the neighbor will quit being an ass.

  • MNBusiness

    You can do a little Googleing on this guy and find he’s a bit of a controversial figure. Seems like there’s a lot more to this story than a few cars out front.

    • The problem that people are missing is that the court decision wasn’t about just one guy with a couple of cars. So, yeah, there’s a lot more to the story. There’s a state law that applies to all collector cars of any vintage or condition that was upheld.

      THAT’s the “more to this story” part. The guy’s reputation as a neighbor is absolutely irrelevant to the significance of the ruling.

  • barn

    The complaining neighbor should be publicly shamed

  • MNBusiness

    Take a look at the comments section on this Jalopnik post or look at some different angles of the Google Maps/Bing Maps posts. This guy is keeping a junk yard on his property and on the street. Sounds like the neighbor finally found something that sticks. I’m with the complainer on this one.

    http://jalopnik.com/stupid-stupid-minnesota-law-says-cars-parked-in-a-drive-1785644847

    • While I’m honored to have my work elevated to Jalopnik, the commenters there rather miss the significance of the ruling which — and I say this again — is not based on whether what’s in the driveway is an eyesore or not.

      That was the point of the court invoking the reference to a Model T.

  • Jeff Miletich

    WTF????????????????????????????????