Orono woman makes waves in dock dispute

It’ll be a real feather in the cap for justice in America when a lawyer for the city of Orono hauls a 74-year old woman into court to face charges of violating a law over a dock she rents on her Lake Minnetonka property.

The Star Tribune says Nancy Edwards lives off Social Security and a reverse mortgage but the law is the law in Orono and she faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine for renting her dock and a room in her home.

“Over the course of my career, I’ve seen how when cities get into disputes with elderly or vulnerable residents, it doesn’t always go well simply because they can’t marshal the resources,” said lawyer Erick Kaardal, who’s representing her at no charge.

It’s a bad look for Orono, and also the unnamed person at a local marina to whom Edwards apparently casually mentioned she’s renting out her dock. That person blew the whistle on the miscreant.

Edwards’ case highlights a reality of municipal law. It is black and white with no room for common sense depending on circumstance. Civil order would collapse otherwise.

“To blanket apply this to everyone in a way that you can’t even have one boat on your dock if it’s not yours just isn’t right,” Edwards tells the Strib.

She worries about what will happen if she loses the rental income and has to sell her 160-year-old cottage.

“My end goal is to go on living my life the way I have been,” Edwards said. “If I have to leave over this, it’ll kill me.”

“Next year it could be two boats,” one commenter notes, coming down hard on the side of a city that sees the big picture and the chaos that threatens to wash up onshore. “Where does it end?”

Edwards also responded in the comments section:

This is the only time I’ll respond. I’ve had 45 Christmases here. My father hand crafted every inch of the interior. Orono disallows anyone from docking here unless the homeowner has title to the boat, a very arduous process of selling it, then paying hundreds in sales taxes to buy it back. My own kids couldn’t dock at my empty dock because I don’t hold the title.

People who’ve posted that I could “just sell it” have no grasp of what it means to be in the cottage my family’s owned for 65 years. As to “following the rules”, they are arbitrary. I have no parties. I serve no alcohol. My neighbors have never complained. It’s just one boat on one dock.

I made the mistake of dropping into a nearby marina to ask what they charge for a slip; it’s twice what I have. They asked me my address, and I foolishly gave it to them. The city’s notice of a complaint followed soon after. This marina is monopolizing the lake, so reporting me was nothing but a flea on an elephant. Mean-spirited, they just sought to pick one off. I think that they just have picked the wrong flea.

Orono is literally the only city on this lake with this ordinance. At the very least, they should provide a waiver for the elderly or the poor, and who only rent a single dock space. I must just be the only person to challenge this. in an email to the city council, I said that I’d go public with what they’re doing. And now I have regardless of people finding out how little I live on. This is embarrassing for me, but one thing I could never tolerate is injustice.

The city intends to bring her before a judge on Thursday.