The Brookings City Council held open hearings June 24 to consider changes to the municipal code allowing citizens to cite other citizens for health and safety violations. The council approved those changes and revisions to the code for business licenses.
Prior to the council’s action, citizens could only write citations into city court for traffic violations, but the amendments allow citizens to cite violators over health and safety concerns. The control of animals falls under health and safety, so residents can now cite their neighbors for failing to control their animals.
The amendments also expand the code to address nuisance animals of all kinds, whereas the original language focussed on dogs and domesticated animals.
According to the amended code, animals can be cited as nuisances for behaviors such as damaging or destroying property, scattering garbage or frequent or prolonged barking, yelping, howling or any such noise making.
The language was changed, according to Public Works and Developmental Services Director Tony Baron because police officers would often arrive after an animal had left a scene, been brought inside or quieted. He said officers were being called back to the scene of a nuisance multiple times but could not act on behaviors they did not witness.
Councilor Brent Hodges praised the amendments and said it was good that citizens would have something concrete to bring to the city to start the process of addressing nuisance, health and safety issues.
“This stops the cat-and-mouse games,” Mayor Jake Pieper said. “We had peacocks and barking dogs, but by the time police arrived, it was often over.”
The process has been “cleaned up,” according to City Manager Janell Howard. Citizens who cite others now know they have to attend court. She said this had been a problem in the past by causing wasted court proceedings. If the person issuing a citation did not attend, the court could not act on the citation.
Other changes allow the city to more quickly abate “a health or other nuisance which unmistakably exists or which imminently endangers human life or property.”
The city changed its business licensing protocols to more easily delineate when a business needs or is exempt from licensing. Changes also clarified the processes for approval, denial, revocation and suspension of business licenses as well as the appeals process. Additions were made to the penalties and violations sections, and an outdated fee schedule was removed. Business license fees are now listed on the city’s master fee schedule.
Howard said the changes allow the city to “actually deny or revoke” a license. She said the point of the licenses though was to charge the minimum necessary to keep an accurate list of businesses in the city and to provide services to licensed businesses.
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