Court lifts restraint against vocal condo critic

A Hopkins man engaged in a bitter, long-running dispute with the management of the Meadow Creek condominiums has been vindicated by the state’s second-highest court.

In a decision issued last week, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that Mel Pittel would no longer be subject to a restraining order preventing him from attending condo board meetings.

Pittel, a vocal critic of the condo’s board and management company, had been barred from attending board meetings by a two-year restraining order that expired in October 2015. The condo board had sought to extend the order.

The court ruled that Pittel’s most recent criticisms of management and the board, although often “unpleasant and offensive,” did not constitute harassment that would warrant extending the restraining order.

“Over the last few years, I have acknowledged that perhaps in some instances I may have been a little excessive and for that reason I toned things down and offered numerous opportunities for ‘compromise’ and ‘cooperation,’ ” Pittel said in an e-mail.

“Unfortunately, the board chose to take the ‘hard line’ route and after two years and much expense they have been proven wrong.”

Meadow Creek is the largest condo complex in Minnesota, with more than 530 units and more than 1,000 residents.



Officials looking at rules for snow storage lots

Mountains of snow stored across Minneapolis during the winter become a nuisance when the weather heats up, sending water into the streets and leaving a trail of sand and trash.

But some of those problems may be curbed by rules mulled by the city’s Planning Commission last week.

The proposed changes would make snow storage a primary use of some properties in the city, such as vacant lots, and require those properties to be a certain distance from homes and offices and include drainage, landscaping and traffic plans.

Snow storage lot owners also would be required to pick up any litter within 100 feet.

“Staff has been called out to regulate situations where there has been flooding in the public right of way,” said senior city planner Shanna Sether.

“Or we see a large amount of sand and material that’s left the site because clearly there have been heavy trucks traveling across what is otherwise an unimproved surface.”

It’s unclear how many properties would be affected by the new rules, in part because Sether said there may be challenges applying all of the requirements to existing snow storage sites.



Heger named city’s first full-time fire chief

Andrew Heger has been hired as Victoria’s first full-time fire chief, a role he has filled on an on-call basis since 2012.

The Victoria City Council last winter voted to include the cost of a full-time chief in the 2016 budget and confirmed the decision this summer.

Chaska and Chanhassen also have added full-time fire chiefs within the last few years as public safety demands have increased, a trend that is said to extend across the state.

In Heger’s 15 years with the department, he has served as assistant fire chief, lieutenant and captain.

He has lived in Victoria or Laketown Township his whole life.

“His calm demeanor brings confidence to the situations where it is needed most,” said Laurie Hokkanen, Victoria’s city manager, in a letter she distributed about Heger’s hiring.

He will start his new job on Sept. 16.



Survey: 2-BR apartments in high demand

An annual survey of rental properties has found big demand — and big rent hikes — for two-bedroom apartments in Bloomington.

The current vacancy rate in the city for two-bedroom apartments is 1.8 percent, down just a tick from last year’s rate of 1.9 percent. A vacancy rate of 5 percent is considered healthy.

Given their scarcity, two-bedroom apartments also showed the biggest rent increase by far of any rental property type in the city.

The average monthly rent for a two-bedroom unit is $1,200, a jump of about 11.6 percent from the average rent of $1,075 in 2015.

Average monthly rent for efficiencies is $730, up slightly from $725 a year ago. Rents for one-bedroom units declined, from $985 in 2015 to $955 this year.

Rents for three-bedroom units were unchanged, at $1,200.

The survey was conducted by the Bloomington Housing and Redevelopment Authority. About 300 landlords and property managers responded, representing nearly 5,300 rental units.