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Vacation rental licenses to be required in 2021

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.”

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After contemplation and discussion spanning nearly a decade, property owners who operate short-term vacation rentals in Crow Wing County will now be subject to new regulations and licensure requirements beginning in 2021.

In a 3-2 vote, the Crow Wing County Board adopted a new ordinance Tuesday, June 9, outlining the responsibilities of operators to abide by rules concerning septic systems and solid waste, occupancy, noise, parking and conformity with existing county and state requirements. It also establishes penalties for not resolving complaints, as well as fines for those falsely reporting violations at short-term rental properties.

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.”

“It is the purpose and intent of this ordinance to regulate short-term rentals within Crow Wing County,” the draft ordinance states. “To continue the allowed use of short term rental units, but also mitigate possible adverse impacts to the health, safety, welfare and quality of life of surrounding properties, as well as water and environmental quality, through the establishment of a licensing program for the review and approval of short-term rental unit operations.”

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Commissioner Bill Brekken, who championed the most recent exploration of establishing such an ordinance, said he wanted to remind commissioners how the proposal arrived in front of them Tuesday.

“The first step was in meeting with cities and townships, they asked the county to take a leadership role in helping manage the short-term vacation rentals. That was from a meeting we had last summer,” Brekken said. “Next step was in meeting with the resorts, they were asking that the county help create a level competitive market, and so that was another reason that we had this discussion going. A third reason was the neighbors living close to short-term vacation rentals were asking that their property rights be protected.”

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Crow Wing County commissioners Rosemary Franzen (left) and Doug Houge listen Tuesday, June 9, during a discussion on a proposed ordinance to regulate short-term vacation rentals. The ordinance passed 3-2. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Brekken said in addition to these considerations, the Minnesota Department of Revenue separately announced in 2019 its intention to tax short-term vacation rentals as commercial entities, rather than residential property. While that original proposal was put on hold, the change in some form is still expected. When it comes, county governments will be responsible for identifying properties used for those purposes, he said.

Commissioner Doug Houge said this type of regulation would normally fall under state health department responsibilities, but that department has stated it does not have the staffing to take on the work. Some operators of short-term rentals in the county have sought state licensure on their own. Those people would not be charged for a county license, which would have owners or authorized agents pay $200 for a two-bedroom property; $300 for three to four bedrooms; $400 for five to six bedrooms; or $500 for six or more bedrooms. License fees will not be officially approved until December, when the county board takes its annual action to update the fee schedule.

“We do believe the department of health should take the reins and regulate these,” said Gary Griffin, land services director. “My understanding is some of the things we’re targeting is some of our customers have asked for — noise, parking, solid waste or garbage types of issues — our ordinance does target that kind of stuff, and I believe it’s going to be more effective than just about anything we’ve seen out there. We scoured our state and other states for things we believe are going to work for our customers that we can effectively manage and communicate.”

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Commissioner Steve Barrows said he’s hearing support of the ordinance from residents, local units of government and the hospitality industry.

“We require hotels, campgrounds and everybody else to be licensed and carry their load in terms of licensure process,” Barrows said. “I think it’s only fair that this group, who competes against them, has to bear that same burden. I think that this is creating a more fair and equitable situation for all the hospitality industry opportunities we have in Crow Wing County.”

Commissioner Rosemary Franzen said her experience is different, and she’s heard mostly from people opposed to the ordinance.

“I’ve always opposed this. The majority of people who call me are adamantly against this,” Franzen said. “I can’t understand why at this time, it just seems ludicrous to me, that we would be trying to push more government and more fees on people in our country or our county. We are in turmoil. We don’t need to add more turmoil and more government.”

The ordinance will apply to all short-term vacation rentals in the county, including those located within cities. County Administrator Tim Houle said the county may regulate the properties within those jurisdictions under its broad public health authority.

Chairman Paul Koering asked for a roll call vote. Houge, Barrows and Brekken voted in favor, while Koering and Franzen were opposed.

The full text of the ordinance can be found at https://bit.ly/2AQo04O .

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

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IMG_4267.JPG
Crow Wing County commissioners Rosemary Franzen (left) and Doug Houge listen Tuesday, June 9, during a discussion on a proposed ordinance to regulate short-term vacation rentals. The ordinance passed 3-2. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

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Crow Wing County commissioners Rosemary Franzen (left) and Doug Houge listen Tuesday, June 9, during a discussion on a proposed ordinance to regulate short-term vacation rentals. The ordinance passed 3-2. Chelsey Perkins / Brainerd Dispatch

Related Topics: GOVERNMENT AND POLITICSCROW WING COUNTYCROW WING COUNTY BOARD
Chelsey Perkins is the community editor of the Brainerd Dispatch. A lakes area native, Perkins joined the Dispatch staff in 2014. She is the Crow Wing County government beat reporter and the producer and primary host of the "Brainerd Dispatch Minute" podcast.
Reach her at chelsey.perkins@brainerddispatch.com or at 218-855-5874 and find @DispatchChelsey on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
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