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Fees set for home rentals

More than 40 people were packed into the Douglas County Commissioners meeting room Feb. 27 for a Planning Advisory Commission meeting to discuss licensing of private/vacation home rentals. (Celeste Edenloff / Osakis Review) 1 / 2
Douglas County is in the process of amending its zoning and lodging ordinances to establish new rules for those who rent out private/vacation homes. (File photo)2 / 2

Property owners who rent out their homes to vacationers may soon have to fork over more than $300 to have their homes licensed for that purpose.

A proposed amendment to the Douglas County zoning ordinance will require all private vacation home rentals to be licensed through Horizon Public Health.

The base fee for the license was set at $240, plus an additional $12 fee per bedroom and an $85 fee for a private well or private septic system. For a three-bedroom home with a private septic system, the total fee would then be $361. Those fees will have to be paid annually, according to Dave Rush, Douglas County Land and Resource management director.

The money generated by the licenses will go to Horizon Public Health.

Rush, along with Brandon Klein, Horizon Public Health sanitarian, spoke during a public hearing at the Douglas County Planning Advisory Commission on Tuesday, Feb. 27. The hearing was about amending the Douglas County Zoning Ordinance and Lodging Ordinance to establish requirements and standards for licensing and operating private/vacation home rental use in all zoning districts within Douglas County.

After nearly two hours, the Douglas County Planning Advisory Commission approved the amendments and are recommending the Douglas County commissioners approve them. Commissioners will vote on the amendments at their Tuesday, March 6, regular board meeting.

The county board considered tightening the rules after holding a series of meetings and work sessions that identified problems with private vacation home rentals — noise, traffic, congestion, inappropriate parking and trespassing.

According to Rush, there are more than 80 private vacation home rentals in Douglas County.

More than 40 residents attended the Tuesday, Feb. 27, public hearing and about 15 people asked questions. In addition, Rush read four emails he received about this issue and responded to questions.

Other questions

The license fees were provided as an answer to one question. Here's a brief recap of some of the others questions asked and Rush's answers.

Q: Who will do the monitoring and enforcing?

A: Horizon Public Health will be in charge of both.

Q: Will it affect property taxes and will there be lodging taxes for the property owners?

A: Townships with a hospitality tax would decide. Homesteaded properties would not be taxed as a resort or commercial property. Douglas County Assessor Keith Albertsen would be able to answer questions related to property taxes.

Q: How was the number of occupants determined and why is 12 a reasonable number? (As part of the ordinance, the maximum number of overnight guests is three per bedroom and not more than 12 overnight guests, unless a conditional use permit has been issued.)

A: Other jurisdictions with similar ordinances were looked at and many had a maximum number of 12. Because most homes are three bedrooms, 12 seemed like a fitting number.

Q: When would the amendments to the ordinance take effect?

A: It would take effect immediately so property owners could get licensed before the summer rental season. There could be a grace period put in place, but that will be up to the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

Q: How did you come up with age 5 when determining who is considered a guest? (A change was made to the Douglas County Lodging Ordinance for its definition of "Person." Person means someone over the age of 5 years that is patronizing, staying or visiting a private/vacation rental home either as the renter of the facility or a guest of the renter.)

A: Those under the age of 5 are less of a disturbance and don't use much water. Those over the age of 5 can be quite loud, may not know property lines, etc.

Q: What about septic systems? Who inspects? What happens if there are issues?

A: Inspections are performed by a licensed inspector, who is a private contractor. Inspections of septic systems are done if ownership on a property is transferred, if a homeowner needs a permit of any kind, such as a variance or conditional use permit, or there has been a complaint or concern brought forward to the county. If property owners have had their systems inspected and the systems have passed, there may not be another inspection unless there is a complaint or a problem is noticed. Then, the county would respond — in less than 24 hours — and an inspection would be done by a licensed inspector and the problem would need to be resolved or the rental license could be revoked.

Douglas County vacation rental license fees:

Base fee: $240

Per bedroom fee: $12

Water, sewer fee: $85 if a private well or septic system is used

A three-bedroom home with a private septic system would pay: $361

Full details of the vacation rental ordinance is available at the Land and Resources Management Department, Horizon Public Health Office, Douglas County Public Library and on the website, www.co.douglas.mn.us.

Celeste Edenloff

Celeste is a reporter for the Alexandria Echo Press and has lived in the Alexandria Lakes Area since 1997. She first worked for the Echo Press as a reporter from 1999 to 2011, and returned in June 2016 to report on the community she calls home. She enjoys running and has participated in nearly 200 races with her husband, Al, covering the 5K, 10K, 10-mile and half-marathon distances.

(320) 763-1242
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