June 12, 2019 Planning Minutes

JUNE 12, 2019 – 6:00 PM

1. CALL TO ORDER - The meeting was called to order by Chair Hoffman at 6:02 p.m.

2. PLEDGE OF ALLEGIANCE – Chair Hoffman led the audience in the Pledge of Allegiance.


Planning Commissioners Present: Jeff Hoffman, Chair; Max Avalos; Bruce Homan; and Michael Mason

Planning Commissioners Absent: Pete Kaczanowski

Staff Present: Dan Tolsma, City Administrator; Al Brixius, City Planner; Scott Qualle, Building Official; and Theresa Schyma, City Clerk.

Others Present: Catherine Kane Palen, City Council Member/Planning Commission Ex-Officio


Chair Hoffman asked for the agenda to be amended for the addition of Item #8a – Mist Condominiums Air Handling Unit Noise and Item #8b – Nuisance Enforcement Update.

M/Mason, S/Homan to approve the agenda as amended.

Motion carried 4-0.

a. Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from May 8, 2019

M/Homan, S/Mason to approve the minutes.

Motion carried 4-0.

a. Short-Term/Rental Licensing Discussion

City Planner Brixius presented the updated draft of a rental housing ordinance for short-term and long-term rental properties in Spring Park. He discussed the roommate exemption, tiered licensing system, warrantless access language, complaint process, and parking requirements.

City Clerk Schyma asked that “roommate” be defined in the ordinance since there is an exemption.

City Planner Brixius responded that he would add a definition to clarify the difference between a roommate and a tenant.

City Planner Brixius discussed examples of tiered rental licensing systems in Minneapolis and Golden Valley which are based on the results of inspections.

The Planning Commission discussed a three-tier versus two-tier system and the length of time between inspections for each tier. Sometimes having a middle tier, or an interim step, adds some reward for the property owner’s efforts and provides middle ground for landlords; however, most properties actually fall into two categories. A longer period of time between inspections is what creates the incentive for landlords and property owners to strive for the higher tier. The length of time discussed ranged from one to six years depending on the tier level.

Chair Hoffman stated that he wants the rules to be clearly defined and consistent so that the City is treating all rental properties the same.

City Planner Brixius stated that the appeals process is clearly defined and the IPMC will judge all properties in an equal and consistent manner.

Commissioner Mason stated that sometimes a tenant is penalized for the conditions in the apartment even if they aren’t to blame.

City Planner Brixius responded that language can be added regarding retaliation to tenants.

City Planner Brixius stated that the comments received at the public hearing were about creating an incentive beyond three years for higher tier properties and trying to maintain a good relationship with property owners.

The Planning Commission consensus was to include a two tier system where the lower tier is on a two-year inspection cycle and the higher tier is on a four-year inspection cycle.

City Planner Brixius discussed the change in language regarding warrantless access to include the administrative warrant process.

Council Member Kane Palen asked who is responsible for paying the court and other legal fees when an administrative warrant is required.

City Planner Brixius responded that he will consult with the City Attorney regarding court fees.

The Planning Commission requested clarification about who is ultimately responsible for all court and legal fees as the City should not be forced to pay costs for any issues at a licensed business.

Commissioner Avalos discussed the ability for landlords to take pictures of corrective actions instead of requiring an on-site visit with an inspector for re-inspection. He believes some landlords would prefer the option of submitting photos to avoid re-inspection fees. He understands that there would be some question of authenticity of photos including a landlord trying to disguise a safety issue in one unit by submitting a photo of another unit.

City Planner Brixius responded that if the City is issuing a license stating that all units have been inspected and are up to standard then part of the process shouldn’t expose the City to liability issues. He stated that another city allows landlords to hire a third-party inspector to do re-inspections but they are working for the landlord and not the City so there is a definite conflict of interest.

City Clerk Schyma added that the Planning Commission has asked for an ordinance and inspections process that is fair, equal, and consistent; a third-party inspector does not accomplish that goal.

Building Official Qualle stated the ultimate goal is to make sure everything is done right so a compromise in re-inspection fees could be to charge an hourly rate with a minimum charge to reduce fees for landlords with minimal corrective actions that required re-inspection.

City Administrator Tolsma added that re-inspection fees are also motivation for compliance. He stated that all landlords will have the IPMC checklists in advance of their initial inspection. Therefore, they will have time to check their properties and make sure all items meet minimum requirements before the inspector arrives.

Commissioner Avalos wants a way to help landlords so that the fees aren’t punitive.

Commissioner Homan responded that if the landlords are given checklists and re-inspection fee information in advance then they have the time to make sure their properties are in compliance. He added that if property owners want to be in the rental business then they need to ensure their properties are in compliance and if they fail to do so then a re-inspection fee is the consequence.

Chair Hoffman stated he was in favor of the hourly rate with a one hour minimum charge.

City Planner Brixius discussed the short-term rental ordinance and stated the only significant change was to remove the homestead requirement for property owners.

Commissioner Avalos asked about the parking requirements for short-term rentals since the current draft has the minimum parking requirement as two off-street parking spaces.

City Planner Brixius discussed the minimum parking standards and the requirements for no on-street parking and no parking on landscaped areas. He stated that rental properties are businesses operating in residential neighborhoods; Spring Park is very limited in space and parking on local streets.

Chair Hoffman asked if the parking language should be changed from addressing the minimum number of vehicles allowed to the minimum number of off-street parking spaces provided on the lot.

Commissioner Mason stated that short-term rental properties should be held to a higher standard.

City Planner Brixius responded that the language needs to be clear and the standards need to be measurable. Reducing grey area is important so that City staff, inspectors, and building owners know unmistakably what each property has been approved for on every license.

City Administrator Tolsma asked about a potential dispute where an owner with a narrow lot that normally only one car can park but the owner states on their application that it can fit two cars.

City Planner Brixius responded that the rental property must meet parking stall requirements in the City Code and that same standard will be used for number of bedrooms, and if an applicant for any license cannot meet the minimum standards then that means they should not be granted a license to operate a business in a residential district.

Commissioner Homan asked why a rental property couldn’t use on-street parking if it is allowed on that property’s particular street.

City Clerk Schyma responded that the difference in standards is the distinction between a guest and a customer. Parking on-street creates a nuisance and disruption in the neighborhood in order for someone to run a business in a residential neighborhood. City staff have received complaints about a short-term rental property using City parking at a local park for several days and nights to accommodate their customers. This means that fewer residents and guests to the community are able to enjoy City parks and amenities because parking was taken by customers of a business that did not have adequate on-site parking.

Chair Hoffman stated that the intent of the ordinance is for public safety and to not have party houses so a standard does need to be maintained.


a. Mist Condominiums Air Handling Unit Noise

Chair Hoffman stated he has been approached by two residents about the noise that is caused by the Mist Condominiums air handling unit. He asked if a formal complaint has been received, what the noise standards are, and if they have been measured in the past.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that a formal complaint was received. He stated that an unofficial test was completed several years ago and everything met the decibel limit standards. At that same time he also spoke with a consultant that specialized in creating noise suppression systems but the Mist’s air handling unit did not meet the decibel limit threshold. He added that the City can have an official test done but he is quite certain that it will not exceed the decibel limit standard. The State guidelines are written quite broad so the fact that you can hear it does not constitute a violation; it is a “presence of noise” and “peace and enjoyment” issue.

Chair Hoffman stated that since a formal complaint has been received he believes the City should have a professional test done.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that the challenge with all noise complaints received by staff is deciding when the City should pay a $2,000 fee for a professional test. However, he stated that having a legitimate test conducted for the air handling unit at the Mist would be helpful to have on file for any future complaints received. Furthermore, the results of that test could be useful when asking the Mist for some concessions to alter their system since it impacts the community. Part of the solution and compromise is going to require everybody to be good and respectful neighbors, including the owners/landlords at The Mist.

Chair Hoffman stated that whatever the outcome of the test is he is hoping that there will be some resolution to this issue.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that conducting a professional sound test is easier than finding a compromise or solution for this particular issue.

b. Nuisance Enforcement Update

Chair Hoffman stated that he heard from a frustrated resident about the lack of progress that has been made on neglected properties in the City after the nuisance and outdoor storage ordinances were passed in 2017.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that staff investigates any legitimate complaint that is received about a property. He added that Spring Park has complaint-based enforcement and there are some very obvious properties in the City that staff have never received a complaint about and therefore cannot begin the cleanup process. He stated that there has been success with many properties including signed nuisance abatement agreements with firm deadlines in place. However, there are a few properties that have reached the end of their deadlines and will be moving forward to the appeals process and possibly legal action.

City Clerk Schyma added that many of these properties have been neglected for a long time and that she explains the process when somebody submits a complaint to staff. The complainant needs to be reminded that the offending property owner also has rights and that the cleanup process can take time. She further reminds them that staff only has the ability to work on bringing a property into minimal compliance with the City Code and that these properties are not going to suddenly become beautifully landscaped masterpieces simply because a complaint has been submitted. She stated she tries to keep the complainants expectations realistic.

Commissioner Homan stated that it is nice to see there is some progress and compliance on neglected properties in the City.

City Administrator Tolsma stated that it is a very time consuming process but the outcomes are worth it.


M/Mason, S/Avalos adjourn the Planning Commission Meeting at 8:00 p.m.

Motion carried 4-0.

Date Approved: July 10, 2019

Dan Tolsma, City Administrator

Theresa Schyma, City Clerk