Appeal of John Krenik to a Vehicle Abatement Order at 1270 Cleveland Avenue
Michael C. McCarthy, Julian C. Zebot, Maslon LLP,
Minneapolis, Minnesota, for appellant.
J. Clark, Saint Paul City Attorney, Virginia D. Palmer,
Assistant City Attorney, Saint Paul, Minnesota, for
Minnesota Statutes § 168.10, subd. 1e (2016),
unambiguously states that an owner of a collector vehicle
must completely screen the vehicle and its outdoor storage
area from ordinary public view.
Saint Paul City Council's decision that an owner of
collector vehicles violated Minn. Stat. § 168.10, subd.
1e, was not unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious.
City of Saint Paul issued an abatement order requiring
appellant John Krenik to comply with Minn. Stat. §
168.10, subd. 1e (2016), which requires collector vehicles to
be "screened from ordinary public view." Krenik had
covered his collector vehicles with tarps and later
constructed a portable fence across the front of the area
where he parked the tarped vehicles, but the vehicles were
still partially visible from public areas. The Saint Paul
City Council upheld the abatement order, concluding that the
tarps and fence did not satisfy the
screened-from-ordinary-public-view requirement. The court of
appeals affirmed. Because we conclude that Krenik's
portable fence and tarps do not screen the collector vehicles
from ordinary public view, and that the City Council's
decision was not unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, we
owns two licensed and registered collector vehicles, which he
stores on his property. See Minn. Stat. §
168.10, subd. 1c (2016) (providing for registration and
licensing of collector vehicles). In 2015, an inspector with
the City of Saint Paul Department of Safety and Inspections,
acting in response to a complaint from a neighbor, inspected
Krenik's property, where he found two collector vehicles
parked in the driveway. The inspector issued an abatement
order requiring Krenik to store the vehicles in compliance
with Minn. Stat. § 168.10, subd. 1e, the
collector-vehicle-storage statute, which specifies in part
that collector vehicles must be "screened from ordinary
public view by means of a fence, shrubbery, rapidly growing
trees or other appropriate means." Krenik initially
covered the vehicles with tarps and called the inspector, who
told him that there would be no further action against him in
the absence of another complaint. The submission of a new
complaint led the inspector to issue a new abatement order,
which once again ordered Krenik to comply with the
requirements of the collector-vehicle-storage statute.
appealed the second abatement order to a Legislative Hearing
Officer, who upheld the inspector's decision. While the
appeal was pending, Krenik constructed a portable fence
across his driveway in a further attempt to comply with the
screening requirement. Krenik claims, without contradiction
from the City, that he built the fence as high as Saint Paul
ordinances allow. Although the fence partially obscured the
tarped vehicles, it did not do so completely. From the front,
onlookers could still partially view the vehicles, both above
the fence and through a gap between the ground and the bottom
of the fence. The tarped vehicles were also completely
visible from each side because the fence covered the vehicles
only from the front.
appealed the Hearing Officer's decision to the Saint Paul
City Council. During a hearing, the City Council reviewed
various photographs of Krenik's property, including those
showing the tarps and the fence, and heard testimony from the
Hearing Officer and one of Krenik's neighbors. Based on
the evidence, the City Council agreed with the Hearing
Officer that Krenik had violated the
collector-vehicle-storage statute by failing to sufficiently
screen the vehicles from ordinary public view.
filed a petition for a writ of certiorari to the court of
appeals, which affirmed the City Council's decision.
In re Krenik, 884 N.W.2d 913, 914 (Minn.App. 2016).
In doing so, the court interpreted the
collector-vehicle-storage statute to require complete
screening of collector vehicles. Id. at 915-16.
Applying its complete-screening interpretation, the court
held that the tarps and portable fence did not satisfy the
screened- from-ordinary-public-view requirement because
onlookers could still partially view the vehicles from the
street. Id. at 916. The court also rejected
Krenik's argument that the City Council's decision
was unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious, concluding that
the reasons provided at the hearing were sufficient even in
the absence of a written decision. Id. at 917.
issue in this case is the inspector's second abatement
order, which ordered Krenik to comply with the requirements
of the collector-vehicle-storage statute. Krenik argues that
the abatement order is invalid for two reasons. First, he
maintains that the City Council, in upholding the
inspector's decision, proceeded on the erroneous
assumption that the collector-vehicle-storage statute
requires complete screening of collector vehicles, when in
fact all the statute requires is partial screening to obscure
the vehicles' aesthetic qualities. Second, even if the
collector-vehicle-storage statute requires complete
screening, Krenik argues that the City Council's decision
was unreasonable, arbitrary, or capricious because it lacked
an adequate explanation and reflected the City Council's
will rather than its judgment. Neither of Krenik's
arguments has merit.
begin with the interpretive question posed by this case,
which is whether the collector-vehicle-storage statute
requires complete or partial screening of collector vehicles
from ordinary public view. Answering this question requires
us to address an issue of statutory interpretation that we
review de novo. Berglund v. Comm'r of Revenue,
877 N.W.2d 780, 783 (Minn. 2016). "The first step in
statutory interpretation is to 'determine whether the
statute's language, on its face, is ambiguous.'
" Larson v. State, 790 N.W.2d 700, 703 (Minn.
2010) (quoting Am. Tower, ...