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Crow Wing County Board: Lakefront property owner says unregulated rentals cause for concern

Dave Williams of Pelican Township voices his concerns about vacation rentals by nearby homeowners at the Tuesday, Jan. 8, statutory, organizational and regular meeting of the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners. Frank Lee / Brainerd Dispatch

Dave Williams is no stranger to the Crow Wing County Board of Commissioners.

Williams previously voiced his concerns about vacation rentals by nearby homeowners at the July 17 committee of the whole meeting—and did so again—at the Tuesday, Jan. 8, board meeting.

"I was at the committee meeting of the whole, and there was some discussion then, last summer. I've asked for a follow-up and have received none, and I'm curious—No. 1—about that," said Williams, who owns vacation property along the southeast shore of Pelican Lake.

Williams spoke during the open forum portion of the statutory, organizational and board meeting, which included the swearing-in of two new commissioners—Bill Brekken of District 2 and Steve Barrows of District 3—and the swearing-in of incumbent Commissioner Rosemary Franzen of District 4.

"Seeing that there are a couple of new board members here, I'd like to just kind of recapitulate my concern or my issue, which is that these are businesses being run on residential properties. These businesses are affecting the surrounding property owners," Williams said.

Williams wants the new commissioners to take a harder look at regulating short-term vacation rentals, a topic he brought up during the open forum portion of the May 22 board meeting.

Vacation rentals by owner, or VRBOs, are not specifically regulated in the county's land use ordinance, which defines bed-and-breakfast residences, resorts and commercial use.

"They're affecting, I think, the natural environment because you have basically commercial ventures that are utilizing standard septic systems; they're running commercial laundries," Williams said.

Williams said he researched how other counties regulate vacation rentals by owner, or VRBOs, and found several of those with tourism economies have ordinances on the books. This includes nearby Mille Lacs and Aitkin counties, he said.

Only a small number of VRBOs in the county are licensed by the Minnesota Department of Health under the hotel/motel classification, but enforcing regulations on VRBOs would require time and county staff resources to enforce any regulation the county puts in place, according to County Administrator Tim Houle.

"These properties go for $5,000 to $6,000 rental a week, so people are incentivized to put the maximum amount of people on those properties during that time, so I'm concerned about the noise, the potential pollution," Williams said.

"I've seen foam on my beach, which I never saw before."

The commissioners also discussed VRBOs in 2014, when a group of property owners on Lake Hubert in Nisswa brought nuisance concerns. The board did not move forward with regulations at that time.

A recent survey by a Cook County representative from the Minnesota Association of County Planning and Zoning Administrators showed out of 41 counties that responded, 22 do not regulate vacation rentals and 12 regulate VRBOs with interim use/conditional use permits.

"I think that this is something that should be addressed by Crow Wing County because other counties have—other lake-centric counties—and the more that this festers and continues on the way it is, the more of a problem it's going to be," Williams said.

Before moving onto other business, Franzen simply replied, "Thank you."

In other business, the county board:

Approved the hiring of Lindsay Krause, community services public health nurse; Laura Donahue, land services geographic information system specialist; Amy Netland, sheriff's office senior administration/technology specialist; Justin Athman, sheriff's office investigator; and Dan Lasher, sheriff's office deputy.

Approved the promotion of Lori Cronquist, community services social worker; Amy Keehr, land services assessor in training; Dave Fischer, sheriff's office chief deputy; Joe Meyer, sheriff's office captain; Andrew Galles, sheriff's office lieutenant; Adam Kronstedt, sheriff's office lieutenant; Todd Holk, sheriff's office sergeant; and Brad Thesing, sheriff's office sergeant.

Accepted the departure of Aaron Patrick, land services environmental services specialist, and Kjersti Golden, sheriff's office correctional officer.

Accepted a donation from Miller Construction of Crosslake in the amount of $412.64 for the county drone program.

Approved granting an easement to Cindy Kulzer of Fifty Lakes to cross county tax-forfeited land, so she can access her property.

Ordered a stop sign installed at the intersection of County Highway 31 and Powder House Road in Cuyuna.

Authorized entering into a grant contract between county community services and the Minnesota Department of Human Services, Division of Behavioral Health, to provide services and engage such assistance as deemed necessary.

Accepted a grant in the amount of $45,394 from the Minnesota Department of Human Services for children's mental health screening, assessment, and mental health services to children in the child welfare and juvenile justice systems.

Authorized entering into a service agreement between the county and the Brainerd Jaycees for on-site law enforcement services during the $150,000 Brainerd Jaycees Ice Fishing Extravaganza on Jan. 26 for an amount not to exceed $6,600.

Approved the land use map amendment request by Dockside Rental from Shoreland District to Commercial 2 District in the First Assessment District.

Adopted the board calendar for county board, committee of the whole, personnel committee, budget committee and natural resources advisory committee meetings during 2019.

Awarded the printing and publishing combined bid to the Brainerd Dispatch, Pineandlakes Echo Journal, and Crosby-Ironton Courier and designated the Brainerd Dispatch as the newspaper for official publications for the county during 2019.

Approved closing meetings in the case of labor negotiation strategy, preliminary consideration of allegations against county employees, performance evaluations of those subject to the board's authority and conferences protected by attorney-client privilege, in accordance with state law.

Approved per meeting rates in the amount of $75 per meeting plus expenses required for attendance at such meetings for all appointed citizens serving on advisory committees, excluding county employees.

Appointed the following to various committees and boards: Sharon Magnan, county housing and redevelopment authority; Dona McEnelly, extension commission; Beth Passi, community health services advisory committee; Zach Tabatt, natural resources advisory committee; Rebecca Best, planning commission/board of adjustment; Ray Griffin, transportation advisory committee; and Robyn Wolfe, Serpent Lake Sanitary Sewer District Board of Directors.