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New rules proposed for vacation rentals

If you rent out your private home or lake cabin for short-term stays, listen up.

Or if you live next to someone who frequently rents their property to loud tenants who trespass onto your land and cause other problems, take heed.

The rules may soon change.

The Douglas County Planning and Advisory Committee will hold a public hearing Feb. 27 about proposed amendments to multiple sections of its lodging ordinance.

The changes would establish licensing and permitting requirements for the short-term rental of private/vacation homes. The amendments would also set standards and definitions for operating short-term rentals.

The hearing will begin at 6:05 p.m. in the Douglas County Commissioners Room at the Douglas County Courthouse.

The county board is considering tightening the rules after holding a series of meetings and work sessions that identified benefits and problems with private/vacation home rentals.

On the plus side, the rentals boost tourism revenue, increase sales of vacation properties and increase property values, according to the findings cited in the home rental ordinance.

However, tenants can cause problems — noise, traffic, congestion, inappropriate parking and trespassing onto neighboring property. Frequent and continuous short-term rental use can also impact air quality from campfires, over use septic systems, and lead to risky or illegal behavior, the findings said.

Other problems cited: inconsistent management; lack of rental policies; and limited communication between owners, renters and neighbors.

Rules that control noise, parking and trespassing haven't been widely adopted at the county or township level, and at the state level, are largely aimed at criminal activity rather than nuisances, the findings said.

State and county regulations are in place to address health and safety concerns about short-term lodging, but the rules don't apply to private/vacation home rentals.

The amendments are intended to:

• Require licenses for those with private/vacation home rental properties, establish basic performance standards for health and safety, and address nuisance issues that can be enforced. (A fee for the annual license has not been set).

• Establish rental management standards that require owners or managers to be informed, locally available and to communicate with renters, neighbors and county agencies to ensure that the vacation rental is operated in compliance with state and local regulations.

• Hold rental property owners and managers responsible for guest conduct through clearly defined enforcement measures that would increase with repeated violations.

Horizon Public Health would license the properties to make sure they are abiding with the ordinance.

Full details of the ordinance and amendments are available in the Land and Resources Management Department,, Horizon Public Health Office, Douglas County Public Library and on the website,

The website is also accepting public feedback. As of Monday, two comments were posted, both opposing the ordinance. A person identified only as Mary said, "This is so wrong. Many of the cabin homes are inherited by family over the generations, and the only way to keep the property and memories of family generations is to rent it to others occasionally to be able to pay the high property taxes you require of us. We do NOT use parks, schools, etc. but we pay dearly for these. We are already over taxed and now you are trying to gain more revenue from us who cannot afford to keep property that should be rightfully ours without interference from a government that only wants money and has no regard for people. I protest this."

Al Edenloff

Al Edenloff is the news and opinion page editor for the Echo Press. He was born in Alexandria and lived most of his childhood in Parkers Prairie. He graduated with honors from Moorhead State University with a degree in mass communications, print journalism. He interned at the Echo Press in the summer of 1983 and was hired a year later as a sports reporter. He also worked as a news reporter/photographer. Al is a four-time winner of the Minnesota Newspaper Association's Herman Roe Award, which honors excellence in editorial writing.  

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