John Krenik lives in St. Paul, Minn. and owns two collector cars that he keeps in his driveway. I’d like to tell you more about the cars, but I can’t because they’re both under tarps. Tarps that were used to “screen” the cars, per Minnesota law. Incredibly, this isn’t enough for Krenik’s neighbors or the state of Minnesota, which has declared these cars a public health hazard. Get ready to get so frustrated you punch your screen.
I saw the story about Krenik’s case on Minnesota Public Radio’s website. Before we go on, I should explain that in Minnesota, part of the state law says that “pioneer, classic, collector vehicles, collector military vehicles, or street rods, licensed or unlicensed, operable or inoperable” can be stored on the owner’s property—if they are “screened from ordinary public view by means of a fence, shrubbery, rapidly growing trees or other appropriate means.”
In other words, you can have an old car on your property, but it must be “screened” from people seeing it. Yes, I know it sounds ridiculous, but there it is.
MPR reports this all started because Krenik received complaints from his neighbor, a person who seems remarkably unsuited to life in the modern world because they can’t seem to be able to handle the act of seeing a motor vehicle. The neighbor complained, and so an inspector was sent out to Krenik’s house. (We’re attempting to reach out to Krenik for comment.)
According to Krenik’s appeal, here’s what happened:
Krenik later asked [the state inspector] whether a tarp would provide a sufficient screen for the two collector vehicles. He told Krenik that a tarp would not be sufficient but that Krenik could try a tarp to see if it would “placate whoever made the original complaint.” The inspector subsequently closed the investigation after visiting Krenik’s property and observing tarps over the collector vehicles and up-to-date tabs on the Buick.
You’d think that’d be bad enough, right? A neighbor who doesn’t pay your mortgage or buy you cars has now made you cover your project cars in your own driveway.
It gets worse, because of this:
The inspector later responded to another complaint about Krenik’s property relating to the two collector vehicles covered by tarps. On June 9, 2015, he issued a vehicle abatement order, stating that the tarped vehicles violated Minn. Stat. § 168.10, subd. 1e, because the tarps did not screen the vehicles from ordinary public view.
Somehow, the poor neighbor managed to figure out that those two roughly car-shaped tarps were, in fact, covering up actual cars. Not just covering cars, but covering cars in a driveway. Just take a moment to let the horror of that idea—cars parked in a driveway, like a pair of ravenous, crouching dragons.
Krenik built a fence to “screen” the cars, but the neighbor still complained because the car’s roof was still visible from their home next door.
What the fuck is wrong with these neighbors? How fragile and tenuous would your grasp on happy living have to be that the mere sight of the roof of a car in your neighbor’s goddamn driveway is enough to make you so distraught you file a formal complaint?
This is one of those rare cases where I actually hope this is all based on some sort of other disagreement between the neighbors, because that’s the only thing that would make any sense.
All we know are the facts in this case, and here they get even weirder, because the appeal starts to stray strangely into Schrodinger’s Cat territory. From MPR again:
“The city argues that the vehicles’ presence must be hidden from ordinary public view, or in other words, that Krenik’s efforts are insufficient because a person could tell that cars are located under the tarps and behind the fence. Krenik argues that the vehicles must be screened so that a person cannot see the condition of the vehicles and, thus, cannot tell whether the vehicles are “junk” cars. Both interpretations are reasonable; thus, the statute is ambiguous.”
So, the city says that, despite Krenik’s efforts at screening the cars, a person can still tell that they are cars, and so that’s, incredibly, not good enough. Krenik actually invokes the Schrodinger’s Cat idea by saying that if the cars are tarped, nobody can tell if they’re concurs-level restorations or piles of rust. That is, the car is both shitbox and creampuff under that tarp, just like the cat is both alive and dead.
It’s an interesting argument from a cosmological perspective, but, sadly, the three-judge panel wasn’t buying it, saying the aesthetic condition of the car doesn’t matter. It’s as much a safety issue as an aesthetic one, a judge ruled.
Moreover, Krenik’s claim that the legislature enacted section 168.10, subdivision 1e, solely for aesthetic purposes is unpersuasive in light of the scope of the statute. Krenik argues that in enacting the statute, the sole “mischief to be remedied” is hiding the appearance of an unsightly collector vehicle. See Minn. Stat. § 645.16(3). Such an interpretation, however, is unreasonable because the statute also encompasses vehicles that do not create an “eyesore,” such as a well-maintained Ford Model T registered as a pioneer vehicle.
So, the gearhead is still boned; Krenik’s appeal was denied, and he has to do even more than tarp and build a fence to “screen” the cars in his own driveway from his neighbors.
Keep in mind, this is a state law, not some oppressive HOA from a gated community of dipshits who’ll never change a tire. This is statewide.
The law clearly requires that “collector vehicles,” regardless of condition or objective aesthetic value, must be “screened from ordinary public view.” Why? They’re cars. Minnesota is positively full of them already—I know, I’ve been there, I’ve checked.
The idea that on one’s own personal property, in a section of your own property specifically designed and built to house parked cars, some of those parked cars must not be able to be seen by people.
It could be a Lamborghini Miura in perfect condition on a slowly-rotating turntable and framed by incredible blue hydrangeas or a Pinto with a dead weasel crammed into the grille, it’s all the same to Minnesota Stat. § 168.10, subd. 1e: the frail people of Minnesota must be protected from seeing anything other than a two-year-old silver Camry in a driveway.
This is, of course, bullshit. Krenik’s neighbor aside, I suspect that the vast majority of Minnesotans can deal with a car in a driveway, or a car under a tarp, or at least are able to deal with the concept that a car may exist behind a fence and under a tarp.
This law is ridiculous and arbitrary, just like Krenik’s appeal attempted to argue. It actively hinders the quality of life of those people who enjoy cars and working on cars, and I don’t understand why the prejudices of people who don’t like seeing cars are able to exert influence over property lines, into driveways and lives that the auto-phobics don’t have any business in.
How do laws get changed, again? Who has that Schoolhouse Rock link?
(images from Google Maps; thanks Kelly for the tip!)