North Hudson man says his van and RV aren't junk
In a decision filed March 12, a state appeals court sent a dispute over a fine for junk vehicles back to county court.
In November 2011, the village of North Hudson issued two citations to Randy J. Krongard, claiming he had two junk vehicles in plain sight on his property at 712 Pine St. North. The village considered the vehicles -- a 1992 Ford van and a 1986 Winnebago RV -- junk because their Minnesota registration had expired. Krongard was fined $291.
Krongard appealed to county court, but his appeal was dismissed by St. Croix County Judge Scott Needham.
Upon appeal to the District III Court of Appeals, Krongard's attorney argued that the village's junk ordinance conflicts with the state's traffic regulations, which define a "junk vehicle" as a "vehicle which is incapable of operation or use upon a highway and which has no resale value except as a source of parts or scrap."
The attorney also argued that state traffic regulations allow vehicles to be parked on private property with the owner's consent and that the regulations only allow municipalities to regulate unregistered vehicles on highways.
The village replied that its ordinance concerns upkeep of private property, that a vehicle is junk if it is unregistered and therefore not capable of legal use on highways, and that "parking" is different than "storing" on private property. In its decision, the appeals court wrote, "This court is persuaded that nothing in the traffic regulations provides that a municipality can regulate unregistered vehicles on private property."
Also, said the appeals court, the village requires owners of inoperable or unlicensed vehicles to keep them out of sight, either in a garage or under a nontransparent commercial car cover.
Therefore, said the court, it appears the village ordinance is a zoning law, not a traffic regulation. But, because it couldn't tell from the record which category the ordinance falls under, the appeals court sent the case back to county court for a determination.
If the village adopted the ordinance under its authority from state traffic regulations, the judgment against Krongard is void and must be dismissed, concluded the appeals court. But, if the ordinance is valid under the village's "alternative authority," the county judge should side with North Hudson.