September 11, 2019 Planning Minutes

SEPTEMBER 11, 2019 – 6:00 PM

1. CALL TO ORDER - The meeting was called to order by Acting Chair Mason at 6:05 p.m.

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


Planning Commissioners Present: Michael Mason, Acting Chair; Max Avalos; Pete Kaczanowski; and Bruce Homan (arrived 6:10 p.m.)

Planning Commissioners Absent: Jeff Hoffman, Chair

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

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


M/Avalos, S/Kaczanowski to approve the agenda.

Motion carried 3-0

a. Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from August 21, 2019

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

Motion carried 3-0.

a. Short & Long Term Rental Licensing Public Hearing & Discussion

City Planner Brixius provided a summary of the proposed ordinances including changes that have been made following previous discussions at the July 10 and August 21 Planning Commission meetings. He further discussed his conversations with Hennepin County’s Environmental Health Program Manager regarding short-term and long-term rental properties in the county. The county encouraged regulating short-term rental properties on a local level since the county does not regulate these properties. He also discussed the misinformation that has been circulating regarding a supposed duplication of efforts with the county and state regulations for rental properties.

M/Avalos, S/Mason to open public hearing at 6:39 p.m.

Motion carried 4-0.

Tom Lhotka, 2450 Island Drive #307, stated he is against the proposed ordinance. He understands the importance of safety but stated inspections should be left up to property owners and renters on a case by case basis. He is concerned about privacy issues.

Robert Rich, 4626 West Arm Road, stated he is against the proposed ordinance and thinks there are better uses of city resources than this ordinance.

City Administrator Tolsma discussed ordinance process with the Planning Commission and City Council.

Tom Wallis, 2470 Island Drive, stated he is against the proposed ordinance. He believes the semi-annual inspections conducted by his landlords are sufficient and he is concerned about violations to his privacy and his fourth amendment rights.

K.D. Koecheler, 2450 Island Drive, stated she is against the proposed ordinance as it is an invasion of privacy. She has been a renter in Spring Park for over 24 years and believes that the landlords should be allowed to inspect the units but not the building inspector. She further believes that the cost of this ordinance is more than has been presented since the landlord will be forced to make repairs and the cost of those repairs will be passed on to the renters. She added that if this ordinance passes, she believes there will no longer be any affordable housing left in Spring Park.

Amanda Gorra, 8201 Stone Creek Drive, Chanhassen and part owner of Park Island Apartments, stated she is against the proposed ordinances because as they are being presented they need changes. She further asked for clarification on short-term rentals being allowed in Spring Park.

City Planner Brixius discussed the history and process of the proposed short-term rental ordinance.

Ms. Gorra said the complaints that the City has received are mainly for short-term rental properties so the City needs to further differentiate the differences between the two proposed ordinances. She stated that long-term rental housing is for homes not party houses. She added that technically the proposed licensing fee is correct for price per unit per month but it does not factor in the amount of money needed for a property owner to get administrative search warrant if necessary, having to pay caretakers to accompany inspectors, and also any costly fixes that are deemed necessary by the building inspector. She added that passing this ordinance would push out affordable housing landlords and believes re-inspection fees incentivize inspectors to find fault where there truly is no problem.

Steve Bedell, owner of a rental property at 4323 Shoreline Drive, stated he is against the proposed ordinance and believes there is a conflict with asking a rental property owner to hold their property to a higher standard than a homesteaded single family property owner. He further asked for the statistics regarding complaints.

City Planner Brixius responded that there is not a log of rental complaints because there is no ordinance for City staff to resolve the issues so they simply need to refer them elsewhere. However, complaints are definitely received by City staff regarding rental properties in Spring Park.

Acting Chair Mason responded that the reason for the ordinance is for basic health and safety.

City Planner Brixius added that the homesteaded owner of a single family home is putting themselves at risk in their own home; however, the situation is different when a tenant is unaware that they are putting themselves at risk when moving into a property that they are assuming is safe but has never been inspected and is unaware if the property has any major health and safety issues. He reiterated that the reasoning for proposed ordinance is to create minimum standards for health, safety, and welfare.

Josh Leddy, 4400 West Arm Road, supports the proposed short-term rental ordinance from a resident perspective but also as a business owner in Spring Park. He added that he does not want short-term rental properties to be classified as party houses. He stated there are not any local accommodations when friends and family are in town so visitors need to stay further away and spend a lot more money.

Fred Puzak, owner of 4400 West Arm Road, Lord Fletcher’s Apartments, stated he is against the proposed ordinance because he has never had any complaints from his tenants. He believes the presented cost estimate is not realistic because landlords will need to factor in the costs to have caretakers accompany building inspectors. He also believes the City displays anti-tenant behavior in how they bill multi-family buildings for utilities and because renters need to pay for recycling services when single-family homeowners do not need to. He added that he believes the City is using a solution to try and find a problem which is government overreach.

Sarah Reinhardt, 4490 West Arm Road, stated she is not in favor of allowing short-term rental properties in Spring Park. She discussed specific goals in the City’s Comprehensive Plan that are not in agreement with allowing short-term rental properties. She added that the City is already promoting Lake Minnetonka so it is not necessary to offer lodging for the entire lake community. She further stated that of the 14 cities on the lake, Spring Park is ninth in population so she is questioning why a city of this size is taking on the burden of short-term housing for the rest of the lake area since many other communities on the lake do not allow them. She stated that she likes her neighborhood and doesn’t want short-term rental properties allowed in the R-1 District.

Randy Bickman, 4652 West Arm Road, stated he is opposed to the proposed ordinances especially since there are no complaint statistics to support the need for them. He presented the State’s Landlord and Tenant Handbook and stated that everything in the proposed ordinances is already covered by this handbook. He stated he does not believe the presented cost of licensing is accurate and that fees will continue to increase.

Bud Groth, 4467 and 4469 Lafayette Lane, stated he supports both the proposed short-term rental and long-term rental ordinances. He added that the City needs to protect itself when it comes to health and safety issues. He further stated that he enjoys using short-term rental properties when he is traveling and thinks they are an advantage for the City. He believes the proposed rules for short-term rentals are sufficient to protect the neighborhood.

Ian Maloney, 4710 West Arm Rd, stated he is against allowing short-term rental properties in the City. He likes his neighborhood because it is quiet and part of how they enjoy the lake. He believes allowing short-term rental properties in his neighborhood would increase noise and intrude on the neighborhood. He added that he does not believe that short-term renters are bad people but they are transient and do not consider the needs of the neighborhood when they are in town and wanting to make every minute count while they are on Lake Minnetonka. He further stated that he was told by a realtor that if there is a short-term rental property nearby that he would have to disclose that information if he decided to sell his property and that would hugely impact his ability to sell. He believes allowing short-term rental properties will change the makeup of the neighborhood and ruin his enjoyment of the lake.

Anton Reder, owner of 3946 and 3948 Shoreline Drive and current short-term rental operator, asked when the proposed ordinances are expected to be enacted because he is definitely not going to allow building inspectors into his home and will not pay the City any money towards licensing and inspections.

Gina Machenehl, 4400 West Arm Road, enjoys renting and has been living in Spring Park for 14 years. She wanted to know what kind of fees would be charged if an inspector got injured by a pet while inspecting her home.

Ms. Koecheler stated she would need to take off of work during an inspection because she would want to be present to ensure that her personal belongings don’t go missing.

MaryAnne Koran, 4400 West Arm Road, stated she is against the proposed long-term rental ordinance. She believes landlords are already taking care of their properties and that any costs associated with passing this ordinance would ultimately be paid for by the tenants. She stated she is also concerned about the safety of animals during the proposed inspections.

Mr. Puzak stated that he believes the proposed inspections process is onerous and that red tape is being added for no reason. He encouraged the Planning Commission to reject the proposed ordinance for long-term rental licensing.

Joanna Widmer, 3882 Sunset Drive, stated she is against the proposed long-term ordinance since she owns a rental property next door to her home and she has never had an issue.

Mr. Groth stated there are currently only a handful of short-term rental properties in the City so maybe there really isn’t a problem that the City is trying to solve.

Mr. Rich asked how many complaints the City receives per year because he agrees with previous comments that perhaps the City is trying to fix something that isn’t broke.

City Administrator Tolsma reiterated that there is not a complaint log for rental properties because there is currently no ordinance in place that would allow City staff to resolve the issues. However, he stated that City staff receive approximately five to ten complaints per year but the caveat is that many of the complaints are for serious issues. He further stated that currently short-term rental properties are not even allowed in the City.

Josh Clemons, 2486 Black Lake Road, stated he supports the proposed short-term rental ordinance because it gives options to families that are visiting the area. He believes that the success of short-term landlords is highly dependent on their ratings so they take care of the properties. He further stated that he understands the tenant concerns that have been raised tonight about affordable rent and privacy issues for long-term renters; however, he stated that he rented at Park Island Apartments for three years and experienced a lot of deferred maintenance and saw many violations while he lived there with his children. He added that he feels bad that the tenants have been stirred up by fear-mongering.

Mr. Puzak submitted a petition to City staff with the signatures of 28 of his residents who are strongly opposed to the rental licensing ordinance.

City Administrator Tolsma announced that three written comments were received from residents prior to the public hearing that were forwarded to the Planning Commission. Written comments were received from:

• Michael Schofield, 4400 West Arm Road
• Bob & Gloria Rich, 4626 West Arm Road
• Mark Melby, 4712 West Arm Road

M/Avalos, S/Mason to close the public hearing at 7:51 p.m.

Motion carried 4-0.

City Administrator Tolsma and Assistant City Attorney Anderson discussed the options available to the Planning Commission regarding the proposed ordinances.

Acting Chair Mason believes the comments from tonight should be considered.

Commissioner Avalos added that he would like Chair Hoffman to have the opportunity to be part of the final discussion. He further stated that he would like City Planner Brixius to address the ramifications of not adopting the long-term ordinance.

Commissioner Homan stated that the long-term ordinance cannot be a one-size-fits-all approach since the apartment buildings have different issues than single-family rentals. However, he stated that the Commission would not be fulfilling their obligation if they didn’t address the conditions of long-term rentals in the City based on the visible evidence that some of the rental properties in Spring Park are rundown and the conditions are concerning.

Commissioner Avalos stated that the tenants that spoke tonight were not speaking out against their landlords; they were more concerned about privacy issues and rent increases.

City Building Official Qualle responded that sometimes tenants are afraid to complain in a public setting when they know their landlord is going to be in attendance.

Acting Chair Mason stated that the inspections are not about vanity; the inspections are for basic health and safety issues.

Acting Chair Mason asked if landlords are going to increase rent for tenants and accelerate the costs of licensing and repairs.

City Planner Brixius stated that the testimony of landlords from tonight’s public hearing was that the inspections were going to mandate improvements and that the improvements are going to expand the cost per unit and that cost would be passed on to the renter. However, he added that in reality if those health and safety improvements aren’t made then the building condition will continue to deteriorate. He stated that the City can only control the cost of inspection, not the cost of repairs.

Commissioner Homan asked if the proposed ordinances are trying to solve problems that don’t exist.

City Planner Brixius responded that perhaps some of the testimony tonight may not be representative of the actual building conditions of rental properties in the City; there are clearly very rundown and potentially unsafe properties in the City.

City Administrator Tolsma stated that another aspect of the proposed ordinances is that, while the City can rely on complaints, isn’t it part of the City’s responsibility to know that the housing stock is safe? Just because the City doesn’t receive a complaint from a person that is happy living in their current situation does not necessarily mean that their housing unit is habitable. Does the City want to have minimum safety standards throughout the City?

Commissioner Homan stated the proposed ordinances are setting a standard for the city. He then questioned if it is someone’s right to put their own safety into question and live in a garage or in unsafe conditions if they so choose.

City Clerk Schyma responded that City staff sometimes need to consider worst case scenarios and in regards to this ordinance that is when children are living in unsafe conditions. An adult may have a choice to live in unsafe conditions but does a child have that same choice. She added that the proposed rental ordinances are policy decisions that the Planning Commission and City Council need to consider but there are children living in some of the properties that appear very rundown and unsafe.

Council Member Kane Palen stated that sometimes life can get busy and you don’t notice things that aren’t basic safety measures when moving into a new rental property. She added that protecting the safety of children in the City is important.

City Planner Brixius reminded the Planning Commission that at some point a decision will need to be made.

Mr. Clemons added that the Commission is really considering the first shot at this ordinance; there is nothing saying that it cannot be amended at a later date to deal with situations as they arise.

M/Mason, S/Kaczanowski to table the discussion regarding short-term and long-term rental licensing to the October 9, 2019 Planning Commission meeting.

Motion carried 4-0.


City Administrator Tolsma provided an update on the plaques at the City’s two parks.

The Planning commission requested an update on forfeited properties at a future meeting.



M/Avalos, S/Homan to adjourn the Planning Commission Meeting at 8:36 p.m.

Motion carried 4-0.

Date Approved: May 13, 2020

Dan Tolsma, City Administrator

Theresa Schyma, City Clerk