An ongoing legal dispute between a Lake Minnetonka homeowner and the City of Orono has once again been reignited.
Jay Nygard thought his fight against City Hall was over when the Minnesota Court of Appeals issued a strongly worded decision last month ruling construction of a wind turbine adjacent to his lakeshore home was a permitted land use and that the City of Orono erred in blocking its placement. So Nygard was stunned when a letter recently arrived from the city demanding he dismantle the turbine’s concrete footing and immediately cease all construction activity.
“At this point, all they are doing is costing everyone more money—especially the tax payers of Orono,” Nygard said. “I’m really not sure what they’re trying to do. It seems to me like they are ignoring the Appeals Court’s ruling and are harassing my family.”
The city’s latest demand that Nygard remove the concrete footing for his turbine is based on what Orono Mayor Lili McMillan says are failures to meet certain performance standards within the city’s zoning code—including insufficient distance between the turbine and nearby structures.
“In order to reconsider the permit, the city asked the Nygards to provide additional information that would be helpful in reviewing the application,” Mayor McMillan said. “The Nygards refused to submit the pertinent information, therefore the city had no choice but to deny the application based on the prior application information and existing documentation.”
Mayor McMillan, who was re-elected earlier this month after running unopposed for another term, went on to add that the wind generator is not listed as an allowed structure or considered a use “customarily incidental to the residence within this zoning district.”
But Nygard claims the State Appeals Court’s ruling clearly classifies his wind turbine as an accessory use similar to clotheslines, basketball hoops and flagpoles. No application process is required for residents installing these items, therefore Nygard contends no application is necessary for his turbine and the city’s request to provide schematics is void.
“I’m putting it up; there’s no question,” Nygard said. “I won the lawsuit. They lost. Two years ago we had different opinions, and it turns out I was right. We have to get beyond this and move on.”
Nygard claims the legal fight with city hall has cost him $50,000 and resulted in a two-year loss of business development. He promises to build the turbine 10 feet taller than originally planned—maxing out the city’s 30-foot height requirement for lakeshore structures—and to do so in the next few weeks.
Nygard first approached the Orono City Council in 2010 with plans to construct a vertical-axis wind turbine on his Lake Minnetonka shoreline property. Citing violation of city code, it took the city council just two days to unanimously deny his application. Months of complicated legal actions ensued, culminating last month with the decision issued by the State Appeals Court.
“We conclude that the city’s stated reason for denying the Nygards’ permit application is erroneous in light of the language of the zoning ordinance and the city’s concession that it allows other accessory uses in the Nygards’ zoning district even though they may not be specifically mentioned in the zoning ordinance,” the court wrote in its opinion.
In what he says is not an unrelated incident, Nygard was cited for trespassing last week by the Orono Police Department while he was removing his dock. The incident has further fanned flames of discontent between the longtime Lake Minnetonka resident and Orono city leaders.
“I was stacking parts where I’ve been stacking parts for 15 years, and the first thing the neighbor did was call the cops,” Nygard said. “The officer was very rude, in my face yelling at me saying I was being aggressive. It’s the first Orono police officer I’ve run into that has been rude and disrespectful like that.”
The police department says the citation Nygard was issued was voided and he’s being formally charged. So it’s an arrest.
“If you want to be technical—a citation is an arrest,” the department told Patch.
Nygard says he intends to fight the citation and is confident in his case’s merit—stressing, however, that it all connected to the wind turbine and corresponding court battle.
“The guy next door who got me the trespassing ticket is good friends with the city council member who lives across the street, and [someone] who calls me the ‘nutcase neighbor,’” Nygard said.
Nygard calls himself an entrepreneur and currently has ownership interests in several businesses. The turbine causing so much legal drama locally is made by a company which Nygard has an agreement with to manufacture in the U.S.—an opportunity he says he’ll capitalize on in the near future.
“Now that I’m able to, I’m going to manufacture these here in Minnesota,” Nygard said. “I’ve had this opportunity on the table for a year and a half, and we’ve been trying to get a hold of (Governor) Dayton to tell him that. Im not saying I need all this government money, but it would be nice to have some sort of government support to get us off the ground—to help get things going and show how these things work.”
Nygard added that the opportunity to capitalize on a clean energy business is both real and local, stressing his motivation revolves around changing the way energy is viewed.
“It’s what everyone has been talking about for the last 10 or 12 years about what we need to do,” Nygard said. “Everything right now is in the hands of the big companies. The only way people are going to control their future is to do things like I’m doing—some solar, some wind, making your house energy efficient and do other improvements to reduce your costs and protect your future.”