BRAINERD — Brainerd residents and property owners will again have the opportunity to weigh in on proposed regulations to short-term rentals in the city.
Another public hearing on the issue is set to take place at the next Planning Commission meeting at 6 p.m. Jan. 17.
Planning commissioners revisited proposed regulations like limits on the number of short-term rentals a person can own and how close the properties can be to one another during their meeting Wednesday, Dec. 20.
In an effort to maintain enough long-term affordable housing stock in the city, officials began discussing earlier this year the idea of
that could operate. Planning Commission members are revisiting aspects of the new ordinance after
to them for further review before approval.
Short-term rentals refer to vacation-type properties that are typically rented out via websites like Airbnb and VRBO.
after city staff found properties listed for rent on vacation rental websites by owners that did not have short-term rental permits.
The proposed ordinance distinguishes between three types of short-term rentals. The first is an accessory home share, which means renting a room in an owner-occupied dwelling. An accessory vacation dwelling unit is an owner-occupied dwelling that is rented out when the owner is not at home. There is no limit on the number of these two types of rentals, as they do not affect the long-term housing stock. The third type of rental is a vacation dwelling unit, which is a non-owner-occupied dwelling for rent. Under the ordinance, only 20 of these units would be allowed in the city, and owners would be limited to one. Vacation dwelling units would also be limited to one per platted block and not allowed to abut another property approved for short-term rental use.
That ownership limit, along with a potential exemption for the downtown area, was a chief concern of City Council members when they reviewed the ordinance Dec. 4. Officials heard from Rick Badeaux, who owns three Airbnb properties but would have to get rid of two of them if the ordinance were to pass. Badeaux previously told the planning commission his Airbnb income allows him to renovate older buildings and provide long-term housing at an affordable rate to tenants who need it.
The rationale behind the limit was to prohibit large corporations from coming in and buying up multiple properties for short-term rentals. Council member Gabe Johnson noted, however, that person could conceivably create more than one limited liability corporation to own multiple properties and still technically be in compliance with the ordinance.
Planning Commissioner Mike Duval agreed with that sentiment during last Wednesday’s discussion.
“As the ordinance is structured right now, a clever person can navigate their way through and bypass the one limit, so I wonder whether there’s really any point in trying to control that,” Duval said.
Other commissioners said they’d be in favor of grandfathering in property owners like Badeaux, and Community Development Director James Kramvik said he could revise that portion of the ordinance.
Council members also expressed interest in exempting the downtown area from the ordinance altogether, seeing a potential opportunity for short-term rentals in that area, as there are no hotels there.
Kramvik summed up the council’s opinion, saying there could be a potential revitalization of old downtown buildings tied to short-term rentals and add even more tourism draw to the area.
While Commissioner James Norwood said he could be on board with some sort of an exemption that still limited the number of rentals per block, other commissioners were not quite on the same page.
“I think there is an opportunity for that development to occur and occur well within that area, and the use would be cohesive, and it could spur development within it,” Norwood said.
Don Gorham said he could see the idea behind opening up downtown to short-term rentals but also had concerns of giving up the important workforce housing there.
Duval worried about short-term rentals downtown affecting other housing projects, including one in the works at
on the corner of South Eighth and Laurel streets.
“Are we going to say now that a 78-unit workforce housing unit can be used as short-term housing?” Duval asked. “I’m pretty confident we wouldn’t want that to happen.
He also brought up concerns about ample parking downtown if there were a multitude of short-term rentals.
Chuck Marohn said he wasn’t sure why they’d exempt downtown from the cap, which he said is essentially like a pause. If the city starts getting close to the cap, they can always step back and revisit it.
Kramvik reported Wednesday there were six operational short-term rentals in the city, along with two more applications.
Kevin Yeager agreed with Marohn, saying they could see how it goes, learn the appetite for the business in Brainerd and figure out if the limitations in place are the right ones.
Kramvik said he would take the commissions’ revisions into account and come back at the next meeting with a new proposal for further review and public comment.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at
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Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.