A proposed ordinance that would regulate short-term vacation rentals in Crow Wing County is getting a makeover based on public feedback.

Crow Wing County Attorney Don Ryan shared two versions of the ordinance with the county board Tuesday, Jan. 28 — one developed by land services staff a week after a public hearing and a second version containing a number of notes and questions from Ryan. That version, Ryan emphasized, is a work in progress and not ready for county board consideration.

A third document shared with the board categorized and condensed dozens of public comments gathered on the ordinance, listing them by each section to which they applied. This document is being used to inform a county working group’s deliberations over the ordinance language.

“We’re trying to be thoughtful about this,” County Administrator Tim Houle said. “... This is a law, and we ought not to go fast in making laws. We ought to be slow, thoughtful and deliberative. And so that is what we’re trying to do.”

The proposed ordinance outlines requirements for licensure for short-term vacation rentals, along with regulations concerning septic systems and solid waste, occupancy, noise, parking and conformity with existing county and state requirements.

The ordinance states short-term rentals will not be allowed to operate in the county without an annual license and defines these rentals as “any home, cabin, condominium or similar building that is advertised as, or held out to be, a place where sleeping quarters are furnished to the public on a nightly, weekly, or for less than a 30-day time period and is not a bed and breakfast, resort, hotel or motel.”

An outpouring of opinions came before the board at a public hearing Dec. 31, showcasing residents’ concerns with implementing the ordinance or the impacts of not doing so. Houle said he planned to recommend the county board designate another public comment period once a new draft of the ordinance is finalized.

“We have received very thoughtful comments from people in favor of the ordinance or opposed to the ordinance,” Houle said. “All of that helps to better inform public policy.”

No timeline was established for when the board expects to vote on the ordinance. Chairman Paul Koering said he’d like to see the ordinance back on the agenda once the working group was satisfied with its rewrites.

In other business, the county board:

Recognized retiring employee Christine Sell for her 35-plus years of working for the county in community services, the majority of which was spent working with adults with traumatic brain injuries and those with mental health issues. Sell received a standing ovation from the commissioners and audience.

Heard from Gary Morgenroth of Baxter during open forum. Morgenroth expressed his opinion the county board should not agree to refugee resettlement. No one responded to Morgenroth during the meeting. Afterward, County Administrator Tim Houle said none of the commissioners have expressed a desire to bring forward a resolution on the issue.

Counties throughout the country have issued resolutions on refugee resettlement, prompted by an executive order by President Donald Trump. The order asked counties and states to affirmatively consent to accepting the initial settlement of refugee populations.

Set a public hearing to consider an ordinance establishing a housing trust fund in Crow Wing County. The hearing will be 9:05 a.m. Feb. 25 in the boardroom at the Crow Wing County Historic Courthouse.

Agreed to a public hearing on a proposed reroute of the Pelican County Forest Road at the request of a landowner. The forest road, located in Pelican and Mission townships near Pelican Lake, allows access to a remote block of county land. The county recorded easements on 17 longstanding forest roads throughout the county in 2008 to improve access to some of its parcels. Formerly Potlatch property, the land is now in private ownership. The owner requested the forest road be rerouted along the township line rather than through the middle of their property. The hearing will be 9:15 a.m. March 10.

Approved a resolution assigning the county as legal sponsor of a project to build a bridge over Sand Creek on the Mississippi River Northwoods property, following the receipt of $150,000 from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for planning and design work.

Agreed to additional hours of mental health services at the Crow Wing County Jail by updating an agreement with MEnD Correctional Care. The provider offered 24 hours of mental health services per week, but will now offer 40 hours per week. The agreement is effective through February 2022.

Authorized community services to enter into a contract with You Are Not Alone, a new outpatient substance use disorder program opening in southern Crow Wing County. Program leaders intend to provide chemical use assessments to those without insurance who are eligible for public treatment funds. This action added You Are Not Alone to the county’s 2020 list of purchase of service contracts.

Approved a final payment to Borden Excavating of $119,675 for tree clearing on county highways 36 and 13.

Agreed to amend a grant contract with the Minnesota Department of Human Services to accept an additional $22,727. The additional funds will support training for mental health crisis response services.

Authorized the county attorney to initiate an unlawful detainer action against the occupants of a tax-forfeited property in Center Township. This amounts to an eviction from the property now owned by the county. Property taxes first went delinquent in 2010, and the property was forfeited for nonpayment in June 2016. The following month, the county board approved an application to repurchase the property via contract for deed, but according to land services, no payments were ever made. Social workers from community services have sought to make contact with the occupants to assist with finding other housing.

Renewed a lease with the Brainerd School District for the 80-acre school farm property at Thiesse Road and Highway 25. Once used for student learning activities involving agriculture, the site is now mainly used for equipment storage. The district sublets the greenhouse for three months a year to The Center in Brainerd. The previous agreement lapsed in July 2017 and had yet to be renewed. The new agreement officially permits that sublet and extends the lease term to five years.

Authorized the finance director and senior business and finance analyst to attend the Government Finance Officers Association conference May 17-20 in New Orleans.

Approved a contract with the Brainerd Jaycees for law enforcement services provided at the $150,000 Ice Fishing Extravaganza. The county provides those services as an independent contractor and are reimbursed at a discounted rate by the Jaycees.

Supported a gambling application for an exempt permit for the Babinski Foundation for a June 27 event at Brainerd International Raceway.

Extended an agreement with JA Sales for the ATM in the Crow Wing County Jail through March 23, 2023.

Authorized an industrial discharge permit with Brainerd Public Utilities for the Crow Wing County Landfill to discharge leachate into public sewers. The two-year agreement was last renewed in January 2018. The county will also haul leachate to the St. Cloud Wastewater Treatment Plant and the Metropolitan Council-Environmental Services facility in St. Paul. Leachate is liquid waste generated as water, snowmelt, for instance moves through garbage/solid waste at the landfill.

Renewed a joint powers agreement with several other central Minnesota counties for the Central Minnesota Emergency Medical Services Region. The agreement pertains to the joint powers board, which governs “a regional emergency medical services system … to develop and maintain an integrated system of emergency medical care.” Sherburne County withdrew from the agreement last year, which prompted changes to the section of the agreement governing withdrawal.

Permitted the chairman’s appointment of representatives to the Natural Resources Advisory Committee. Dan Hegstad will serve for District 3 and Cindy Nathan will serve as the at-large representative.

Approved the promotions of Raynor Blum to patrol deputy and Craig Katzenberger to sergeant, both in the sheriff’s office.

Approved the hiring of the following people: Amy Emerfoll, program specialist, community services; Kristina Selisker, financial worker, community services; Jennifer Rikala, financial worker, community services; Tera Kowalczyk, social worker, community services; Natalie Petersen, veteran service specialist, community services; Daniel Bremner, part-time deputy, sheriff’s office; Jerome Cassidy, assistant veterans service officer, veteran services; and Nichole Stotz, customer service specialist, land services.

Approved new staffing in land services for an assessment specialist as part of a tax system project. The board also approved the reclassification of a senior technical/administrative specialist in community services to a probation case aide.

Accepted the departures of the following employees: Todd Holk, sergeant, sheriff’s office; Chad Heyer, maintenance technician, facilities; Jeanine Hill, child support officer, community services; Gary Fagerman, deputy, sheriff’s office; and Lance Fondie, highway maintenance specialist. Replacement staffing was approved for a deputy position and a highway maintenance specialist position, along with an assessor in training due to a transfer.


UPDATE: This story was updated to include a revised date for the public hearing on the Pelican County Forest Road.

CHELSEY PERKINS may be reached at 218-855-5874 or chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com. Follow on Twitter at twitter.com/DispatchChelsey.