Local Views: Do Stillwater Police Turn a Deaf Ear to ‘Plainly Excessive’ Motorcycle Noise?

Is it just us, or do Stillwater police turn a deaf ear to the plainly excessive and highly irritating noise of motorcycles that negatively impact the quality of life for thousands of residents from May to October? We certainly got an earful on Friday May 1 when dozens of illegally loud bikes roared through and around town.

Because it was so loud on Friday, members of our group met downtown on Saturday, the day after PD Pappy’s opened for the season. The photos show the first thing we encountered at about 2:15 pm.

PDP No Drinks Beyond This Point - Copy

Photo by Citizens for a Quieter Stillwater

One shows three guys, presumably bikers, drinking adult beverages beyond the “No Beverages Beyond This Point” sign.

PDP Illegal Parking - Copy

Photo by Citizens for a Quieter Stillwater

The other shows about 10 motorcycles illegally parked in front of a “No Parking, Tow Away Zone” sign.

So much for hoping this year would be different.

Although opening weekend at Pappy’s would have been a great opportunity for the police to get ahead of the motorcycle noise issue by talking with riders and asking them to idle their bikes while in town, we saw no police on foot, on bikes, in squads or on motorcycles while we were downtown, in spite of continued and obvious noise violations. And even though the lack of parking revenue has boosted fines and tightened restrictions in the rest of downtown, Pappy’s patrons enjoyed unlimited free parking, even when parked illegally.

So is there some sort of favoritism or special treatment going on? Well, yes, there is.

For those who don’t know, PD Pappy’s – thanks to a Special Use Permit approved and continually renewed by several city administrations for years – operates fully half of its business on land owned by the city and zoned as Parks, Recreation and Open Space. Pappy’s own property ends at its front door, and its patio area and an auxiliary storage area are on city-owned parkland. For some odd reason, the land that Pappy’s is on is zoned Two Family Residential (in yellow at http://www.ci.stillwater.mn.us/vertical/sites/%7B5BFEF821-C140-4887-AEB5-99440411EEFD%7D/uploads/2015_Zoning_Map_48X36_.pdf)

Maximum fire code occupancy for Pappy’s is 90 inside the building and 90 on the patio. However, there is permanent seating (bolted to the concrete) for 94 outside plus plenty of standing room. On Saturday night at about 10:30 pm, most of those seats were occupied, other people were in chairs that had been brought out from inside and probably 30-40 more patrons were standing at the bar-height ledges that surround the patio. We observed one person checking IDs at the main entrance to the patio while other people came in freely through the other unmanned entrance. So it was up to the bartenders to check IDs, because they weren’t all being checked at the ‘door.’

Whether those are liquor license or fire code violations is up to the police and fire departments to determine, but the proximity of Pappy’s to city parkland brings up other potential infractions of city ordinances. Any possession or consumption of liquor in the traffic circle on Mulberry Street, where many bikers park, could be in violation of city ordinances Sec. 48-4 & Sec. 52-15.

The behavior of some patrons once they leave Pappy’s and cross onto parkland could also be in violation of Sec. 48-5, which states, “It is unlawful for any person to be present in or upon the public parks within the city between the hours of 10:00 pm and 6:00 am when that person does loiter or make undue noise by shouting or yelling, or when that person otherwise disturbs the peace and quiet of the city.”

Revving an illegally loud motorcycle at 2 am when leaving Pappy’s (and then heading out of town via Main St., Second St., Third St., Myrtle, Pine or Laurel) would seem to constitute disturbing the peace and quiet of the city, especially for the thousands of residents who are trying to sleep. Or maybe the city doesn’t consider that part of the park a park.

Because Pappy’s is dependent on the city for its Special Use Permit, they are obligated to uphold all conditions of that permit, specifically the one that says, “The use or structure will not constitute a nuisance or be detrimental to the public welfare of the community.”

However, going back to the 1990s and continuing to today, Pappy’s has been the frequent subject of complaints from residents and dock owners regarding alleged noise, vandalism, stolen property, abusive behavior, public urination, trespassing and more. There have also been, in our opinion, an unreasonable number of incidents requiring police calls for service when compared to other similar establishments.

One would think that Pappy’s would be held to a standard that called for exemplary behavior in order to get their Special Use Permit renewed year after year. Have they been? Or have they been given a pass?

With the new bridge opening next year, we have a chance to set a new resident-friendly tone In Stillwater. In the interest of public welfare, we believe the mayor and council are well within their rights to re-examine the Special Use Permit and potentially reclaim the land for the further development of North Lowell Park as envisioned by city planners. We hope Mayor Kozlowski and the city council can have the foresight to see how this action can improve the quality of summers for Stillwater residents, now and for generations to come.

Citizens for a Quieter Stillwater is a grassroots coalition of residents and business owners dedicated to the peaceful enjoyment of property.