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October 26, 2020

10/16/2020 11:48:00 AM
Center City Council wrestles with short term rental regs; hears public works employee out for months

The county recently enacted a licensing process for Short Term Rental properties;  and Center City council had its first encounter last week applying this regulation within city borders.  

Part of the problem council encountered is properties may not be visibly obvious, they don’t advertise, and business comes through word-of-mouth.  The council knew of one and possibly two STR locations in town.  (Bed and breakfast falls under a different regulatory category due to consumption of prepared food.)

Short Term Rentals are generally defined as seeing frequent turnover, being rented out as shelter for short time periods under a monthly lease.
The concept of county licensing gained ground as complaints began coming into law enforcement about VRBO and Air B and B-type sites  hosting nuisance activities.  Activity was getting out of hand and law enforcement could not locate actual property owners.  The county had concerns about septic system capacity among other infrastructure issues.   Inadequate parking space and waste hauling concerns were also encountered.

The new license allows for inspection, when officials can verify septic compliance, occupancy capacity, plus quiet hours are defined that can be enforced. Owner contact information is to be distributed to neighbors and renters.

The county has identified as many of these STR properties as possible from Internet listings, etc but now it is up to cities and townships where the county handles development services like zoning/permits, to get in on the process.  

Center City Clerk Norma Anderson said the county wants Center City to "sign off” on STR sites, which is a pre-requisite for the property owner to get their STR license from the county.

Center City code lists these uses as allowed under Conditional Use Permits, but Anderson stated, none have applied for CUPs.

City council agreed that known STR properties should be sent a letter advising they need to apply for the CUP  or they won’t be eligible for the county license.  This calendar year is nearly done, so the goal is to have applications for CUP review to do what the city needs to do, and then Chisago County can review lawful operations for 2021.

If there’s a short term rental property operating in your Center City neighborhood, feel free to contact city hall and provide information so the property can be included in this effort.

In other matters:  Library liaison and Council member Lloyd Vetter announced the population had increased from 622 to 640 and the share of the regional library system is tied to a per capita assessment of $3.40-- so the 2021 budget increase is $62.  Mayor Mark Wolcott remarked he thinks “this is do-able.”

~ Public Works Supervisor Eric Garner advised the lift station at Crescent Road needs about $2,500 in work done.  The system is cycling almost non-stop and check valves are broken down.  

Garner also reported the overlay on Center Ave. is complete and around the end of October the crack seal work throughout town is slated to be done.
~ Council also voted to indefinitely loan the Chisago County Historical Society the city’s vintage birth and death records books, for the research archives at the history center in Lindstrom.  The items are stored in a cupboard at Center City Hall and council felt the public would have much better access at the center.

~ Thanks to a $5,000 grant from the Center for Tech and Civic Life there is an air exchange system coming to address issues with air quality at the polling place/city offices.  The non-profit organization assists with making polling places efficient, secure and safe, and promotes civic engagement. This grant was possible through funding from Apple’s Mark Zuckerberg and spouse Priscilla Chan.   The equipment installation will be done for $4,200 by Aerotek,  of Lindstrom.  Clerk Anderson said there’s enough left to purchase a sanitizing light wand.

~ Personnel issues had a lengthy discussion. The public works part time employee is out and it could last months.  Council consensus was to see if the employee who had resigned wants to take the position back, temporarily-- or if there’s anyone still interested from the last round of applicants for the job.  Council will open it up to new applicants as a last resort, but it was agreed this is a temporary fill for the department vacancy and there’s some urgency.

The new owner of the Swedish Village Mall, Richard Eitel, introduced himself for the discussion about clearing up a deed issue related to him being able to close on the mall site.  

Council offered to cooperate on whatever needs to be recorded or finalized to correct small discrepancies in lot lines.  This issue first surfaced in 1988 according to a city memo.  Eitel said a signature is needed and copies of papers didn’t change hands, adding “I think somebody just dropped the ball.”  He mentioned the mall is now one of many he owns,  and he looks forward to making improvements.

~ The regular council meeting Tuesday Nov 3 was shifted to November 4 because of elections.

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