August 21, 2019 Planning Minutes

AUGUST 21, 2019 – 6:00 PM

1. CALL TO ORDER - The meeting was called to order by Chair Hoffman at 6:00 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; Michael Mason; and Pete Kaczanowski

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

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


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

Motion carried 5-0.

a. Planning Commission Meeting Minutes from July 10, 2019

Commissioner Mason noted a correction of the approval date listed at the bottom of the minutes to be changed from August 14, 2019 to August 21, 2019.

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

Motion carried 5-0.

a. Short-Term/Rental Licensing Discussion

City Planner Brixius discussed several options to the proposed draft in response to comments at the July 10 public hearing. The following items were discussed:
• Penalty points for older housing units;
• The City’s current complaint-based enforcement policy;
• Whether or not short-term rentals benefit or harm the long range plan for the City;
• The use of private building inspectors instead of City inspectors or using the inspection report from a property owner’s insurance inspection;

The Planning Commissioner consensus was to remove penalty points for age of property so that only the physical condition of the property is considered in scoring for the tiered system.

Commissioner Kaczanowski asked about the current complaint policy since some neighbors are concerned about keeping peace in their neighborhood and might not feel comfortable submitting a formal complaint.

City Administrator Tolsma discussed the City’s current complaint-based enforcement policy including proximity requirements and complaints about a serious or imminent risk to public health or safety.

Assistant City Attorney Anderson added that all complainant information is kept confidential per state statute.

City Planner Brixius stated that in regards to whether or not short-term rentals enhance or detract from the characteristics of the City; it is a policy issue and not something that is determined by staff. He stated that that the very beginning of this rental ordinance process he asked the question to the City Council and Planning Commission about whether or not short-term rentals should be allowed and the consensus was to go down the path of allowing short-term rental properties in the City but put into place certain restrictions to protect the surrounding neighborhood.

City Planner Brixius added that there are goals in the proposed 2040 Comprehensive Plan that are conflicting with each other; promoting Spring Park as a lake community and maintaining the strong character of Spring Park’s single-family residential neighborhoods. He added that having a licensing process does help protect the neighborhood if a short-term rental property owner does not follow the rules. However, allowing short-term rentals is a policy decision and the commission is allowed to change the path they are going down if they so choose.

Commissioner Mason noted that many surrounding communities do not allow short-term rental properties.

Commissioner Avalos asked if there would be any flexibility for a property owner to bring in their own state-certified inspector instead of using the City’s inspector.

City Planner Brixius responded that having an unlimited number of inspectors would not accomplish the goal of ensuring that all properties are treated equally, held to the same standard, and that each property has been inspected in a consistent manner. Furthermore, outside inspectors have competing interests and are not necessarily working in the best interest of the City or its residents.

City Building Official Qualle added that there are several inspectors at MNSPECT so if there was a personality conflict between a property owner and inspector they would have the option of having another inspector conduct their inspection. He also discussed the licensing requirements for his employees.

Commissioner Homan stated that it would probably be an additional administrative burden for City staff to try and follow, communicate, and receive reports from multiple unknown inspectors.

Assistant City Attorney Anderson agreed that an additional administrative burden could be created with potential communication issues and consistency in reporting.

Commissioner Kaczanowski stated that MNSPECT is the City’s hired contractor and they are required to be impartial.

Commissioner Mason discussed the fees that were brought up during the public hearing including the idea of charging a larger upfront license fee so that all re-inspections are covered instead of a lower license fee and separate charge for any necessary re-inspections.

Assistant City Attorney Anderson stated that the City’s fees cannot be a revenue raising endeavor. If the City charged a large upfront cost which would include re-inspections but then the property owner never requires a re-inspection then the City would actually be keeping money that it didn’t need. He stated that the proposed model is so that the property owner only gets charged for the services rendered.

City Planner Brixius added that some landlords and property owners at the public hearing were comparing the licensing process and fees to the city of Minneapolis but that is not an accurate comparison due to the sheer size of the city, staff levels, and resources available.

Assistant City Attorney Anderson agreed that comparing the business model and licensing process of Spring Park to a city the size of Minneapolis is not the right thing to do when building this ordinance.

Commissioner Kaczanowski asked about inspection reports from insurance companies.

Building Official Qualle responded that this is the same challenge that would be created by having multiple inspectors hired by the property owner. Furthermore, the insurance company is inspecting the property looking to protect their investment, not necessarily inspecting for potential life safety issues for the future occupants.

City Planner Brixius discussed state statutes and Hennepin County ordinances for lodging.

City Attorney Anderson stated that state statute and county ordinances do not address short-term rentals so that requirement should be removed from the ordinance in regards to the application process.

Commissioner Mason discussed the redundancy concerns that a resident raised at the September 19, 2019 City Council meeting during the public forum. The proposed ordinance is not redundant because the City licensing process is proactive with inspections instead the State and County processes that attempt to resolve issues after they have already occurred or are still occurring. This ordinance is about protecting renters in the City.

City Planner Brixius stated that the main goal of the proposed ordinance is to ensure that that all rental properties in the City maintain a minimum standard of basic health and safety for their occupants.

Council Member Kane Palen asked how many short-term rentals are currently in the City.

City Planner Brixius stated that there really isn’t any way to know that since we don’t have a licensing process to track the properties. Also, currently they are not allowed so it is difficult to track something that has never been legally established.

Commissioner Mason suggested looking at the websites of short-term rental operators.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that there are upwards of 20 websites that offer short-term rentals and the postings can change daily so there really is no way to truly know for sure. His best guess is that on any given day there could be a few rentals in town that we would be able to locate.

Commissioner Mason wants to add a minimum rental age of 21 years old for short-term properties. He also wants the ordinance to restrict customers at short-term rentals from being able to bring trailers, boats, snowmobiles, fish houses, etc. to the rental properties.

The Planning Commission consensus was to change to minimum rental age to 21 years old for short-term rental properties and directed City Planner Brixius to do some research on language for making that change.

Commissioner Avalos stated that the license and site plan would address the parking situation including approved surfaces so he is not sure that a restriction is needed for types of vehicles.

Chair Hoffman and Commissioner Homan are not in favor of restricting trailers, boats, etc.

City Planner Brixius stated that he would look at the language for the site plan that is required as part of the application process to ensure that there is wording about approved surfaces for parking so that multiple trailers and boats are not parked in unapproved areas.

City Planner Brixius stated he will also alter the language in the draft ordinance that discusses when disagreements arise during the enforcement process so that property owners have the opportunity to appeal to the City Council.


a. Park Sign Renderings

City Administrator Tolsma distributed renderings of the bronze dedication plaques for discussion. He discussed the process and direction he gave the vendor.

The Planning Commission consensus was to embed the plaques on boulders at their respective parks.

Commissioner Mason stated that he wants a baseball glove to be featured on the plaque somewhere; not just a ball and bat.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that when producing a dedication plaque usually the theory is that less is more because you want the text to speak for itself.

Council Member Kane Palen stated that the style of the proposed renderings reads easily since the lettering should be the focal point, not necessarily the decorations.

The Planning Commission consensus was to add the badge number and keep the nickname “Porky” on the Wilkes Park dedication plaque, to move forward with the vertical option for easier reading, and to correct the name to Thor Thompson Park on the dedication plaque.

The Planning Commission also discussed the inclusion of text about Indian burial grounds on the dedication plaques; the draft text was provided by the Westonka Historical Society. No consensus was determined after lengthy discussion.

b. Mist Apartments Noise Testing

City Administrator Tolsma provided an update on the noise testing taking place at the Mist Apartments. He stated that the tests were completed last weekend and the results are being prepared. He stated that it will be good to have the results on record for any future complaints and also due to the number of impacted properties.

Commissioner Mason stated that sometimes a noise that is generating a complaint could also be coming from the nearby Lakeview Lofts.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that the tests are being conducted at multiple locations around the Mist Apartments to ensure accuracy and to make sure the test is exhaustive. Mitigation options will also be discussed with the noise expert conducting the tests once the results are received.


M/Hoffman, S/Avalos adjourn the Planning Commission Meeting at 7:42 p.m.

Motion carried 5-0.

Date Approved: September 11, 2019

Dan Tolsma, City Administrator

Theresa Schyma, City Clerk