Planning Commish OKs third try at short-term rental ordinance
If the third time's a charm, Park Rapids homeowners interesting in hosting short-term rentals will have the option to work through a national hosting platform such as Airbnb or Vrbo, or to self-administer.
The Park Rapids Planning Commission on Monday recommended its third version of an ordinance regarding short-term rentals for city council approval.
The city council sent back two previous drafts for additional work on April 30 and Sept. 8.
Concerns about those drafts included disagreement about a proposed buffering standard, requiring a distance such as 500 feet between short-term rental (STR) properties.
Some commissioners said such a restriction could lead to inequities or lost opportunities for economic growth. Others felt some kind of density control is needed to protect neighborhoods from excessive traffic and other nuisances.
The first draft ordinance included the buffer, but failed when several realtors voiced their concerns to the council. The second draft, without a buffer, was also criticized for dodging the problem – which commission chair Richard Bradow said at the time was due to the commissioners being unable to reach a compromise on the size of the buffer.
City council members also said in September that they preferred to see STR permits handled administratively, rather than through an interim use permit, which would bring all requests before the planning commission and the council and could expose the city to complaints about inequity.
The commission previously discussed the proposed third draft’s language on Sept. 28. City Planner Andrew Mack came back on Monday with a revised draft that reflected commissioners’ input.
The new draft throws out the buffering standard in favor of density controls based on linear feet of street frontage, divided by a constant. For most of the city, that divisor is 600, meaning that a street could have an average of one STR per 600 feet of its length – regardless of the actual distance between them.
Meanwhile, in the “one way in, one way out” neighborhood around East River Drive, that distance factor will be 1,500 feet. This would effectively allow up to four STRs on Bear Path Drive and East River Drive combined, and up to three STRs total on Baywood Drive, Birch Briar Lane, Norwood Drive, Timberglade Drive and Trail Drive.
The revised ordinance also expects STR permit owners either to host rentals through a national booking platform such as Airbnb or Vrbo – following their rules about party size and behavior and meeting their insurance requirements – or, if hosting the rentals themselves, to document that they have similar standards and coverage.
Fourth public hearing
When Bradow opened up the commission’s fourth public hearing about the ordinance, Mack read an email from Dolly Matten, executive director with the Greater Lakes Association of Realtors, and shared his answer to each of her concerns about the latest draft.
Mack clarified that:
Short-term rental permits will be renewed annually, but the owners will also be required to have a rental inspection and renew their rental license every three years.
Regarding a clause canceling an STR permit if it is not used for three consecutive months, the city will be satisfied if the owner submits a report stating, in advance, that they will have no short-term rentals for a specified period of time. Mack also noted that an ordinance violation does not void a permit; annual permits can only be revoked by city council action, on the advice of the planning commission.
If the owner of an STR sells the property and the new owner wants to continue the use, their application receives priority over any permit waiting list.
A previous STR owner’s violations would be taken into account when the commission evaluates the new owner’s permit request, but will not cause the request to be refused. Violations may result in revocation, on an owner-by-owner basis.
Regarding language restricting lessees from having guests other than those registered to stay overnight – such as for weddings, birthdays, bridal showers etc. – Mack said having guests would not violate the ordinance, but nuisance complaints due to overparking, excessive occupancy, noise, etc. will be taken into account. Again, hosts and guests will be held to the policies of their hosting platform, including a nationwide call number to report complaints.
Regarding the “reverse scenario,” where STR guests want to report a nuisance neighbor, Mack said the guest may contact the host or manager of the rental, the national booking platform or local law enforcement.
With no further public comment, city council representative Liz Stone moved to recommend the ordinance for council approval. The motion passed unanimously.