Owners of a long-standing Flandreau family business have appealed a notice of a zoning violation from the city stating that their properties must be cleaned up.
Jeff Weigel, who operates Rudy’s Welding with his father, Curt, told the Flandreau city council the properties are zoned commercial and industrial, and Rudy’s Welding is grandfathered in to be a salvage yard. Therefore, it can continue to have salvage materials on its properties, he said.
“This is bringing up a lot of old wounds,” Weigel said of the notice from the city. Rudy’s welding was started in 1941 by his grandfather and has survived for three generations. In 2001, the city took Rudy’s Welding to court to try and put ordinances passed in 2000 in place for the business to comply with, he said.
Now the city is calling the family business a nuisance, which Weigel called another witch hunt against Rudy’s Welding.
“You come and try taking it from me. That’s my business. That’s my inventory,” he said. “Anybody shows up and tries taking my stuff, it’s going to be a big problem.”
The council voted unanimously to table action on the appeal until the Sept. 21 council meeting and requested additional information. Aldermen Bob Pesall and Jason Unger were absent.
Rudy’s Welding was one of 74 properties that received notice this summer that they were in violation of the city’s zoning ordinance. Violations could include debris and junk in yards, inoperable or unlicensed vehicles or poorly maintained structures, for example.
City attorney Corey Bruning said that all classifications of property have to be in compliance, even commercial property.
The city hired Dave Miller with the South Dakota Municipal League to look at all properties in town and cite those who needed to come into compliance. The goal was to clean up the community in a fair way and to use a person outside of the community to make those decisions, following the city’s zoning rules.
Most property owners complied right away when they received a letter from the city, and others are working on correcting any problems, Miller said.
A dozen properties received a second letter for not complying, requiring that their property be cleaned up by Sept. 18 or the city will abate it by removing the items from the property.
Those letters went to six of the Weigels’ properties and six other property owners. Those violations are listed as:
•104 E. Elm Ave., owned by Duane and Beverly Whaley, trailer behind the fence in the alley with expired registration, branch pile in the trailer, tire on the ground next to the trailer.
•208 E. Broad Ave., owned by Mary Lou Guptill, Chrysler Pacifica with expired SD registration in backyard with tall grass and weeds around it.
•307 E. Park Ave., owned by Brad Grootwassink, green Chevy pickup with expired registration in the backyard.
•308 E. First Ave., owned by Edward Quarles and Cindy Roagers, inoperable Ford Bronco with expired registration.
•800 W. Third Ave., owned by Irvin and Marvin Schoenwetter, abandoned golf cart, inoperable pickup, flatbed trailer full of junk, pickup box full of dead branches, tires, junk, tall grass and weeds.
•608 E. Third Ave., owned by Nancy Herrick, multiple large branch piles, unknown items along the west side of the blue garage and on the east side of the white shed by the alley, tall grass and weeds in and around these items.
The properties owned by the Weigels that have been declared a nuisance include locations at 208 E. Park Ave., 221 E. Second Ave., the Railroad Addition, a vacant house next to the welding business, 211 E. Park Ave. where Jeff and Kathy Weigel live, and 505 S. Prairie St. where Curt Weigel lives.
Alderman Mark Ekern asked Jeff Weigel whether he could remove property from the boulevard and street, cleaning up the front of Rudy’s Welding.
Weigel said that while the boulevard is city property, everybody in town uses that commercial frontage.
“I don’t feel like I should have to do something when others don’t. The persecution of Rudy’s Welding has been going on for decades. I guess people just can’t stand Rudy’s Welding or the salvage yard I guess,” he said.
Weigel said he also has two unlicensed trailers sitting behind a main street property and they haven’t been used for 19 years but that is not a problem because they are rightfully on his property and he will use them when he wants to.
“They are not abandoned. It’s my stuff. It’s my inventory. I take great offense to the word ‘abandoned,’” he said.
After an extended time to speak, Mayor Dan Sutton had to gavel Weigel to force him to stop speaking. A Flandreau police officer in the room also stood at one point when Weigel was yelling and not cooperating with the council rules.
If anybody tries to take his stuff, they’re not getting it, Weigel said, questioning why the family is getting singled out.
“We’re always blamed for the ugly guy,” he said. “Somebody’s got to do the ugly. I take this to heart. This is my whole life. This is my father’s whole life. This is my grandfather’s whole life.”