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Neighborhood rules can trump solar power

WOODBURY, Minn., Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Folks in a Minnesota city say a homeowners' association is blocking their plans to install solar-power panels purely because of the way they look.


The dispute was the topic of a recent planning commission meeting in the St. Paul suburb of Woodbury, where neighborhood aesthetics were a big issue in the "greening" of the community, about 70 percent of which is under the jurisdiction of a homeowners' association.

"I don't think anyone is against solar," said Al Rudnickas, president of one of the associations. "But you have to find a way to do solar and satisfy aesthetic concerns."

That stance rankled some homeowners who said they were rebuffed when they wanted to install solar systems on their homes. They expressed doubts that the rules would be changed anytime soon.

"It is not like we are cutting down a grove of redwoods, for crying out loud," said James Dailey, who called on Minnesota to come up with a new law that trumps home association rules on solar panels.


Cheap tents left as litter in Scotland

DINBURGH, Scotland, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- Scottish national parks are dealing with camping equipment so inexpensive many visitors simply abandon tents and sleeping bags, rangers said.

Rangers patrolling the "bonnie bonnie banks" of Loch Lomond sometimes need police escorts, The Scotsman reports. They have found many campers become abusive and even threaten violence when told to strike their tents and clear up after themselves.

To make matters worse, some visitors set their tents on fire instead of just walking away.

High-end camping equipment can cost a small fortune. But the supermarket chain Asda offers a two-person tent for 10 pounds (less than $15), while Tesco, for a little more, has a package that throws in two sleeping bags.

"This is one of the most significant problems we have had to deal with in the last five years due to these incredibly cheap tents," said Bridget Jones, visitor experience manager at Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park.

Campers have also been pitching their tents away from established campsites to avoid fees. Jones said the east shore of Loch Lomond, especially, seems to draw young men on weekends.

Pet python makes meal of pet cat


BRISTOL, England, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- An English couple are campaigning for legal restrictions on pet pythons after their cat ended up as a meal for a neighbor's pet snake.

Martin and Helen Wadey of Bristol said their cat, a 4-year-old tabby named Wilbur, was eaten by a python allowed to roam in the neighbor's garden, The Times of London reported. The neighbor was not home at the time of the incident.

"We heard the python's strike from the terrified scream that came from Wilbur and the blood-chilling cries as he fought for his life," Martin Wadey said. "Then in less than a minute, all was silent."

The couple learned for sure what had happened only a few days later when the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals scanned the 4-foot python and discovered Wilbur's identifying microchip was still in its body.

The Wadeys have started a "Justice for Wilbur" campaign because the Dangerous Wild Animals Act does not include pythons. They want large pet snakes to be licensed and owners fined if the snakes are not confined.

"Wilbur's little life was brutally snuffed out," Martin Wadey said. "We don't want it to have been in vain."


$54,000 rent too high for hot dog vendor

NEW YORK, Aug. 10 (UPI) -- A New York hot dog vendor says he was evicted from his spot by the Metropolitan Museum of Art because he could not afford the $53,558 monthly rent.

Vendor Pasang Sherpa, 51, said he routinely made up to $1,500 daily at his location but fell $310,000 behind on the Parks Department rent, the New York Daily News reported.

"I'm going crazy," said Sherpa, who agreed in 2008 to pay nearly $643,000 annually for the vendor rights to the museum location. "I don't know what to do now."

Sherpa said his eviction comes after his business was hurt by a lengthy construction project near the museum's steps.

Parks spokesman Phil Abramson confirmed Sherpa and his vending carts have been evicted from the museum location and the city department has seized $170,000 in performance bonds from the hot dog vendor's company.

"As they are in arrears for the bulk of their contract, we are seizing their bonds and will seek the rest of the money they owe us through litigation," Abramson told the Daily News.

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