BRAINERD — How far should property rights extend, and what effect could government intervention have on the quality of housing properties?
Those are two of the questions still in play on the topic of
in Brainerd. City Council members approved the first reading of an ordinance relating to the topic during their meeting Monday, Feb. 5, but the guidelines have not yet gone into effect, and concerns still linger.
The way planning commissioners see it, a cap on short-term rentals in the city helps preserve the affordable housing stock, while a maximum number per owner prevents large corporations from coming into town and snatching up all the permits.
But for council member Jeff Czeczok, limiting the amount of rentals people can own impedes personal property rights, and for Mayor Dave Badeaux, one good landlord owning many properties is better than several owners with unknown history owning just one.
Just let people live. This is a big government in a little town.
Jeff Czeczok, Brainerd City Council
The proposed ordinance, which
after city staff found properties listed for rent on websites like Airbnb and Vrbo without the property permits, would cap vacation dwelling units at 20 within the city and only one per owner. A vacation dwelling unit is a non-owner-occupied dwelling for rent. The ordinance defines it differently from an accessory vacation dwelling unit, which is owner-occupied and rented out when an owner is not home, and an accessory home share, which means renting a room in an owner-occupied dwelling. There would not be a cap on the latter two types of short-term rentals under the ordinance.
“It’s somebody’s personal property. How do we sit here and say, ‘You only get one. Sorry’?” Czeczok asked Monday. “… Just let people live. This is a big government in a little town.”
Council member Gabe Johnson said he was against the individual owner cap as well, noting at a previous meeting that a person could easily create several different limited liability corporations to skirt the law if they wanted.
Badeaux, who does not vote in council matters except in the case of a tie, said he still has the same concerns he’s had for a while, in that he’d rather see landlords with proven track records of good ownership be able to own more than one rental, rather than 20 different people each own one.
“I think it’s just better for the quality of the units,” he said.
Council members viewed the ordinance Monday after having
in December. One of the main concerns at that time was for a property owner who already had more than one short-term rental and was facing the idea of having to get rid of some of his properties if the ordinance passed. A revision now states that short-term rental properties legally operating before the ordinance goes into effect would be exempt from the new maximum capacity rules. Council members agreed they liked that change.
Council member Mike O’Day previously stated he’d like to see some sort of exemption for the downtown area, which he said could have potential for a hotel or other short-term housing in the future. Planning commissioners, however, did not make any changes on that front in the newly revised ordinance. Community Development Director James Kramvik said that’s because commissioners recognize downtown as an area with a lot of affordable housing and do not want to see that change. It could be a topic of discussion in the future, Kramvik added, noting commissioners are interested in first seeing how the ordinance affects short-term housing before allowing a limitless amount downtown.
A unanimous vote of the council was required for the first reading of the ordinance in order to avoid reading it out in its entirety. Johnson said he would support the first reading in favor of not listening to the whole thing being read out but would not support the final reading as written when it comes around. Czeczok said he felt the same.
The final reading of the ordinance is expected to be on the council’s agenda Feb. 20. There will not be a public hearing at that time, as the Planning Commission conducted one at its last meeting Jan. 17. No one spoke at that hearing. Council President Kelly Bevans, though, said if anyone showed up to the next meeting to speak about the ordinance, we would be inclined to let them do so.
THERESA BOURKE may be reached at
or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at
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.