July 15, 2019 Work Session Minutes

JULY 15, 2019 – 6:00 PM

CALL TO ORDER - The work session was called to order by Mayor Rockvam at 6:00 p.m.

Council Members Present: Jerome P. Rockvam, Mayor; Pamela Horton; Gary Hughes; Catherine Kane Palen; and Megan Pavot

Staff Present: Dan Tolsma, City Administrator; Mary Tietjen, City Attorney; and Theresa Schyma, City Clerk


City Administrator Tolsma presented update on the tobacco ordinance including the non-age related proposed changes to the ordinance. He stated that Hennepin County recently passed a law that would raise the age of tobacco purchasing to 21 years old for any municipalities they license. The City of Mound is considering removing themselves from the county’s umbrella and keeping the tobacco purchasing age at 18 years old. He added that Orono Police Chief Farniok has stated he would like to keep all cities that they patrol at the same age limit for more uniform policing. He asked the City Council for direction on what changes they would like to see for the tobacco ordinance.

Mayor Rockvam stated that he wants the age limit to be the same as other nearby communities for uniform enforcement for Orono Police. He is in favor of the non-age related proposed changes to the tobacco ordinance.

City Attorney Tietjen discussed the proposed changes including updating the Code to be more consistent with State Statute and to include items such as e-cigarettes and vaping.

The City Council consensus was to move forward with only the non-age related proposed changes to the tobacco ordinance at an upcoming meeting. Any age-related changes will be put on hold to remain consistent with the surrounding communities.


City Administrator Tolsma provided a history and summary of the proposed short-term and long-term rental ordinance process to date. He also asked the City Council if they have any further direction for the Planning Commission.

Council Member Hughes recounted several stories from renters that lived in unsafe and unsanitary conditions for many years. They were unable to get action from their landlord and the City was unable to help in resolving the issue.

Mayor Rockvam is concerned about creating another level of bureaucracy and duplicating State and County laws. He stated that people move into the homes they can afford and doesn’t believe it would benefit the City to have tenants calling City Hall to take care of any problems they have with their landlord.

City Attorney Tietjen stated one benefit of a City rental ordinance is that it provides enforcement to actually get in rental buildings and see if they are following current State and County laws.

City Administrator Tolsma highlighted the differences between the State Building Code and the International Property Maintenance Code (IPMC). The building code is applied based on the year the building was built; the IPMC is for basic health, safety, and welfare issues.

City Administrator Tolsma discussed the theoretical duplication with State and County laws that some property owners discussed in the second public hearing. He stated that there are some very basic State and County laws for rental housing and even an escrow process with the County for tenants to hopefully get remedy action from their landlord. Whereas, a city-wide ordinance would provide uniform and minimum basic safety standards to protect lives. The intent of the ordinance is not to turn every small rental property into a mansion; it is to make sure a rental unit in the City meets basic health and safety standards.

Mayor Rockvam stated that renters already have methods of reconciliation including moving out or withholding rent.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that on some level there is personal responsibility for renters but the City does need to think about worst case scenarios including somebody perishing in a home that did not meet basic safety standards. In that scenario someone will ask why the City allowed someone to live in extremely unsafe conditions. The City has a responsibility to look out for what is in the best interest of the City as a whole and limit the City’s liability. The City can only turn a blind eye for so long before something bad happens.

Council Member Kane Palen stated there are unsafe properties and delinquent activity going on and currently there is no way for the City to try to resolve these issues.

City Attorney Tietjen stated that she has worked in a number of communities that have enacted a rental ordinance and it has improved the quality of rental housing in those cities.

Michael Mason, Planning Commissioner and resident at 3950 Del Otero Avenue, believes the long-term rental ordinance is important to protect tenants in the City.

Mayor Rockvam asked what the feedback has been for the proposed short-term rental ordinance.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that there are concerns for noise and traffic. Also a major point of discussion is balancing the rights of property owners who wish to run a business out of their home versus the rights of neighbors who chose to live in a residential neighborhood and not next to a property that is essentially operating as a bed and breakfast.

Council Member Kane Palen discussed the noise and parking concerns regarding short-term rentals. She added that it is difficult to balance the rights of entrepreneurs versus the character of a neighborhood.

Mayor Rockvam stated that parking is definitely a big issue in Spring Park and he understands how some residents are opposed to allowing short-term rentals. He agrees with Council Member Kane Palen about trying to balance the needs of young entrepreneurs who are trying to make a buck versus the residential feel of a neighborhood. He also discussed the potential for noise, party houses, and increased police calls.

Mr. Mason stated that he lives by a short-term rental property and there are customers there on a constant basis which is frustrating. He added that there has even been a bachelorette party that was going on at all hours of the night, swimming off of other people’s docks, and disturbing the neighborhood.

Council Member Kane Palen asked the Council if any of the short-term rentals that they know of near their homes are interfering with the neighborhood.

City Administrator Tolsma responded that part of the challenge with short-term rentals is that the City does not have detailed statistics because these properties are operating under the radar since the City is currently not regulating short-term rentals.

Council Member Hughes responded that he knows of two short-term rentals in his neighborhood and that he has received feedback from neighbors that one has definitely interfered with the neighborhood. He stated he is unsure if the other rental property has been an issue. He added that one of the short-term rentals also rents out their boats for parties and lodging as well.

Council Member Pavot stated that she attended the first public hearing and thought there were some constructive ideas that were implemented into the updated draft ordinance. She added that while she doesn’t like the idea of more government, she does want properties to be safe. The whole idea behind licensing is that if your short-term and/or long-term rental property follows the rules then everything will be fine. However, it gives the City a vehicle to enforce minimum standards for properties that are non-compliant which is something the City is currently unable to do.


City Administrator Tolsma presented a brief summary of the proposed updates for the City’s beautification plan. Purchase orders for new lighting and signage at City Hall will be included on an upcoming meeting agenda.


City Administrator Tolsma briefly discussed the basic plan to refurbish the playground at Wilkes Park. Some equipment will be repurposed, upgraded, and/or possibly moved to enhance the beauty and safety of the park. A purchase order for these changes will be included on an upcoming meeting agenda.


Council Member Hughes asked for an update on nuisance properties.

City Administrator Tolsma provided a summary of non-compliant properties in the City and the different strategies and processes involved to bring those properties into compliance.

Mayor Rockvam stated that the Planning Commission spent a lot of time on the updated nuisance ordinance so it is good that the enforcement process is underway. Unfortunately over the past decades a lot of nuisance issues occurred in the City that shouldn’t have but they were disregarded at the time; it is good that the City is enforcing this new ordinance and moving on.

6. ADJOURN – The work session was adjourned by unanimous consent at 6:58 p.m.

Date Approved: August 5, 2019

Dan Tolsma, City Administrator

Theresa Schyma, City Clerk