BUZZ Blog: Are neighborhood clashes a Duluth phenomenon?
Peter Passi and Brandon Stahl cover issues related to the city of Duluth. Follow BUZZ on Twitter.
Your friends and neighbors. Or at least your neighbors
I was thinking this weekend as I was sitting on my porch, enjoying the sunshine and the view of the harbor, watching my daughter run around on our yard and kids playing across the street, that I am really damned lucky. Sometimes in the middle of covering controversy for a living I don't stop to think about how fortunate I am that when I go home I get to live in a nice, quiet neighborhood surrounded by good people who generally also enjoy living in a nice, quiet neighborhood.
And yet neighbors clashing with each other seems to be a common sport in Duluth. Take for example the Duluth Teachers Credit Union vs. the neighbors in Kenwood, a battle that's gone on since just about the first part of the millenium. The credit union has tried to develop/sell land on the corner of Kenwood and Arrowhead, while the neighbors have largely fought that development fearing it will put high traffic through their quiet neighborhood. Twice the credit union went to the city council for permission to essentially turn the property into a Walgreens, and twice it was rejected. Last week a proposal from the credit union went to the planning commission, but that was defeated 7 to 1. If it goes to the city council, expect it to receive a similar fate, but I don't expect the battle to end. The piece of property sitting there is on one of the busiest intersections in the city and seems prime for commercial development. It can't sit empty forever.
Then there's the battle of the ongoing college kids and rentals vs. the single-family homeowners and the 300 foot rule, which never seems to die. Just last week the council received the following email:
"To whom it may concern,
I am a military spouse to an active duty Air Force officer. I grew up in Duluth and continue to have all of my family still reside there. In an effort to provide my children the opportunity to spend time with and get to know their cousins and grandparents, we started looking for a home in the Duluth area to purchase. Upon finding a couple of potential properties I contacted a realtor that would be able to further assist us in this process.
The realtor proceeded to inform us that we would not be able to rent out the purchased property during the non-summer months that we would not be staying there. I called the City of Duluth who verified this information.
I am writing to express my deep dissatisfaction with this policy. I am also unclear as to the legality of this "rental license" that has been imposed. As a military family we are forced to move from place to place year after year. We were truly excited to be able to have a place to call home and that my children would have the benefit of spending summers close to family and experiencing all that Duluth has to offer. Unfortunately we are not able to carry an extra mortgage for a home that we would only be spending 3 out of 12 months occupying. We expected to be able to rent out the summer house during the months that we are not there. I wonder if this decision to limit who can have rental property was made with the best interests of everyone or of the interests of only a few.
I can personally say that this new regulation has impacted my family greatly and that we will make sure to not purchase a property in the city limits regardless of what the future holds for this regulation. I am very disappointed that the city has decided to take it upon themselves to tell home owners what they can and cannot do with their property. Shame on you all and I only hope that your family never finds themselves in the position that mine has.
And then there's just renters and landlords versus homeowners, as typified by this email earlier this month to the council:
I have written and talked to numerous city officials - including the police department - over the past 3 years regarding our unseemly neighbors and am now turning to you, our elected officials for help..
Specifically I am talking about the individuals who live at 2121 E. 2nd Street. We live above them on 3rd Street and ever since we moved in we have had nothing but trouble from them. A young girl owns the home and her on and off boyfriend lives there with her. From all night screaming matches filled with profanity and fighting, to vehicles coming in and out of the alley and making tons of racket at all hours of the night, to them trying to divide the already divided illegally house into a tri-plex, to the girl breaking out all the windows in all the vehicles in retaliation it has been a nightmare.
You may recall a few years ago the SWAT team was called into investigate possible gun fire and they surrounded the home and eventually found nothing - yes, that was this home. The police are called there (either by neighbors or they call the police on each other) every few months. The latest issue is that they have opened a car repair business in their garage and not only have so much trash and junk lying everywhere, they have now brought in an old tow truck and trailer to further clutter up the alley. They have no issues with parking in front of people's garages and are extremely unfriendly if you ask them to move - they will yell profanities at you. This car repair business only seems to operate after midnight and we are up every night to the sound of yelling, doors slamming and revving engines. The people that visit them are also very sketchy.
While we have only lived here 3 years (and have only been in Duluth 3 years) the neighbors around us who have been dealing with this longer told us that this home was busted for selling drugs in the past.
We have a 5 year old daughter and are contemplating moving just because we are concerned about the situation. I find it deporable that this is nothing the city can do to put pressure on them to move - whether it is fines for junk, for illegal renting conditions, expired license tags, outstanding warrants (which I'm sure they have), etc.
Why does my family have live in fear of walking in the alley for fear of stepping on rusty nails or broken glass from their "business" or that they will retailiate against us if we say anything to them? We paid over $350k for our home and have a wonderful view of the lake that is now marred by seeing the stacks and piles of JUNK and TOW TRUCKS.
Please, please, please isn't there anything you can do to help save our neighborhood!?!?!?
Shortly after Bartlett sent another email praising the response to her complaints, and city CAO Dave Montgomery sent this out:
Feel free to contact me directly with any further information or issues. I have our building safety and police looking into the matter. All of us here at the City take these issues seriously and appreciate the passion and care for our "home" expressed by long-time residents and newcomers alike. I will keep you advised as we work to resolving these issues.
And I haven't heard anything about this since, but I'm sure more emails will be sent to the council regarding neighborhood disputes. Which has gotten me wondering: is this a uniquely Duluth phenomenon? Because I don't remember these types of clashes in other cities I've lived in. Or maybe I just wasn't paying attention like I am now.