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Editorial: City must balance private rights, public good

Setting rules for private property can be a challenge for city governments. When someone buys land they should have a right, at least within certain limits, to decide what they want to do with it.

But there is also a need to consider the greater good of the city as a whole. Because what one person does on his or her property has implications that reach beyond the edge of the yard. It's why cities have rules about keeping lawns tended in the summer and sidewalks shoveled in the winter.

It's figuring out where to draw the line between private privilege and public responsibility that can be difficult.

This newspaper has covered discussions in recent weeks about two such decisions. Two weeks ago, we wrote about the Rosemount City Council's debate about whether to limit the number of vehicles a person can park in his or her yard. This week, we bring you the story of a Rosemount resident who lost his dog to a trap placed on private property.

Both are interesting cases. Should a resident be able to keep whatever he wants on the land he owns? Or is there some responsibility to the people living around him to keep the neighborhood from looking like a junkyard, as some described the yard in question. Is it OK to trap on private property, or should there be some consideration that a dog -- or a child -- will not always pay attention to property lines?

In both cases, we believe changes are needed. We appreciate that the situation that sparked the discussion earlier this month involves a resident who fixes and sells cars as a hobby. But when cars start filling a yard it goes beyond a pastime and starts to look like a business. And that's not the right fit for a neighborhood.

We also understand there are legitimate needs for trapping -- of coyotes or raccoons or other critters. But a residential neighborhood, even on private property, is no place for traps that could potentially injure or kill.

We don't claim to know the right answer for either of these instances. Like we said, it's a delicate balance. But the way things are now that balance seems out of whack.