Appeals court sides with homeowner and his natural yard

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — A Minnesota appeals court has ruled in favor of a retired botany and physics professor whose unmanicured yard was declared a public nuisance.

Ed Borchardt wanted a natural yard, filled with native plants and flowers that would attract birds, bees, butterflies and other wildlife. The city of North Mankato disagreed with his vision and said the yard doesn’t meet the standards of a new local ordinance that encourages naturally managed lawns.

The appeals court on Monday said a city cannot declare a nuisance “based on little more than neighbors’ displeasure with the property’s appearance.” The court said the city failed to produce enough evidence that Borchardt’s yard was a hazard to public health or safety, the Star Tribune reported.

In recent years, health problems have prevented Borchardt from keeping up with the yardwork and neighbors began to complain about an explosion of vegetation.

City Administrator John Harrenstein said that despite the appeals ruling, the case is not closed.

“The property in question still remains, in our opinion, a nuisance according to our existing code,” Harrenstein said. The appeals court decision faulted the city for not offering enough evidence to back its contention that Borchardt’s yard is a nuisance, and Harrenstein said the city will be consulting with its lawyers on how to proceed.