At last week’s meeting of the Grand Rapids City Council, a public hearing was convened to gather input on a proposed zoning change.
Community Development Specialist Eric Trast described the changes, the first two of which had to do with shoring up the language surrounding storage units. The third modification addressed height regulations on security fences. The new language allows for higher security fences in areas zoned for commercial or industrial use as well as reduced setbacks for the fences.
The fourth element of the prosed zoning changes addressed the topic of “roomers” or persons renting space in a home on a temporary basis. Trast said that the city has always had some language in its zoning ordinance for roomers, stating that the current provision allows for up to two roomers in one and two family residential areas.
Additionally, the current language prohibits cooking meals and makes provisions for one off-street parking stall per roomer. Trast contrasted this type of arrangement with group homes, foster care, residential treatment facilities and certain senior housing arrangements all of which allow for densities of up to six individuals in the same setting. The current proposal would bring the densities into alignment, he said.
With respect to the new language, Trast defined a dwelling used to house roomers as a building that is the primary residence of the owner and in which rooms are provided by the owner, for compensation, to persons not related by blood, marriage or adoption to the owner. He went on to define a rooming unit as a room or group of rooms forming a single habitable unit used or intended to be used for living and sleeping, but not for cooking and eating purposes. Trast said that the new proposals would allow up to six roomers in single and two family residences.
Mayor Dale Adams opened the floor to anyone wishing to address the council on the zoning revisions. Burl Ives stepped forward first, telling councilors that there were a couple of hot topics in the state of Minnesota with respect to the hospitality industry - VRBO’s (Vacation Rental By Owner) and AirBed & Breakfasts (Airbnb’s offer short-term living space and breakfast).
Ives said that there were no rules regulating either airbnb’s or VRBO’s. “I’m cautioning the council here; this sounds like an airbnb to me” adding “if it read something like rentals of 30 days or more, I would have no problem with this ordinance,” he said.
City Attorney Chad Sterle weighed in on the matter stating “If we are going to have a line of demarcation, where if you’re renting for 30 days or more, one set of rules apply, but if you’re renting for 30 days or less, another set of rules apply, we can certainly do that but this is not the mechanism for that at all. The mechanism for doing that is doing much more like what Duluth has done in the last two to three years in having a rental ordinance.”
Sterle stated that the current proposal would be temporary if the city decided to pursue a rental ordinance and that the current proposal would wind up being one small piece in a rental ordinance.
“I am telling you as your city attorney that if you pass the ordinance as it is with a 30 day minimum, you better have a rental ordinance in place within six months,” Sterle said.
The council voted in favor of all four revisions to the ordinance with no changes to time limits. Adams cast the only dissenting vote. All Council members, city legal council, and City Administrator Tom Pagel expressed an interest in pursuing a rental ordinance for the city.
In other business, the council:
• Entered into a Lease agreement with Great Western Properties LLC, the terms of which call for Northern Way Hockey Academy to remodel a room at the IRA Civic Center to accommodate a piece of training equipment. Northern Way Hockey Academy will pay the city $3,905 at the commencement of the lease, and the city will pay $7,810 to have the room remodeled and Northern Way Hockey Academy will pay $200 per month to the city.
• Authorized staff to begin the process of filling a vacancy at the library for a public library services clerk.
• Approved the verified claims for the period of May 2 to May 16 in the amount of $541,697.94.