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home : news : news
July 5, 2020

6/15/2020 10:21:00 AM
To stay in business short term rentals must get license

A first-ever ordinance regulating short term rentals was approved last week by the County Board 4-1.  The fee for the new licensing process is probably going to be set at the recommended $300.  A company called “Host Compliance” is recommended to do the oversight, verifications and data gathering.

County Board Chair Ben Montzka voted no because the public input timeframe was condensed and there were concerns expressed by the largest urban area in his district, the City of Wyoming, about not having any input.

The number of Short Term Rental (STR) properties keeps exploding (see graphic) as people choose to let their own homes to generate income.  and investors also buy dwellings  leasing them frequently  as basically fulltime accommodations.

The properties avoided regulation by the county until direction of the County Board a few months ago when zoning staff was directed to create a STR license.  Among the basic public welfare concerns to be regulated:  sewer systems, quiet hours, occupancy limits, parking, and current contact information for parcel owners.
Commissioner Montzka  voted no, he said, because the City of Wyoming hasn’t had an opportunity to weigh in on this law which pre-empts (perhaps) what the city uses.  In general Montzka advocated for more public input.

County Attorney Janet Reiter said the Board is well within bounds to enact something now, but advised commissioners set a public hearing date soon.  
The public hearing will be held July 1. (See other story about government center reopening on how this will operate.)
County Commissioner Mike Robinson pressed for  speedy ordinance adoption.  

Zoning staff recommended six months for property owners to come into compliance providing an application for a license.  With all the contracts and administrative work yet to be done, the Board was told it could realistically be at least four months before there’d be anyone visiting sites.  There are approximately 86 individual short term rental properties the county is aware of, gleaned from searching on-line listings and some have multiple reservations.

Robinson said he wanted enforcement underway no more than 30 days from adopting the ordinance.

He described constituent complaints about transient occupants at properties in his district who are a nuisance to permanent residents-- especially on Rush Lake.
He stressed,  “I think we have to enforce this now,” especially with summer as peak activity.  

Having an ordinance in place gives county law enforcement the teeth needed to respond to overcrowding, trespass issues, blocking streets, trash buildup, and so forth.  Licensing also lends an opportunity for public education and pro-active measures.

Commissioner George McMahon asked for a compromise at 60 days, adding,  “I know it is a problem, (but) we are rushing this.”

Environmental Services Director Kurt Schneider called even that a “tight turn around” and cited logistics of signing up a third party vendor, such as the company Host Compliance.  (Minneapolis, Cook, Lake and St. Louis counties are clients of Host Compliance, according to the company promotional material.)

But, mainly, Director Schneider said staff just doesn’t have the time to fast track STR licensing.  He explained the department  has a backlog from the virus shutdown, and there are 15 hearings in July alone for land use projects and proposals in-process.

The motion that passed, however, did include the 30 day window.

~ Other ordinance concerns revolved around the sewerage holding tank prohibition. The ordinance was revised by the commissioners last week to require regular pumping records if there is a holding tank serving the property.  Holding tanks are used when there’s no land area suitable for a mound system, so to outlaw holding tanks pretty much eliminates a parcel as a short term rental, the zoning director advised.

Schneider said the holding tank prohibition was included originally because “...management and care of these systems can creep up and become an issue”  but, it’s up to the Board how to be pro-active on tanks, he added.

Last week’s discussion also  clarified that properties where a Conditional Use has been permitted, and also allows for overnight stays, like a scrapbooking lodge or a specialized retreat, do not fall under the definition of short term rentals.   These will continue to be regulated under their Conditional Use Permit.





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