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St. Peter approves vacation rental ordinance

January 30, 2019

ST. PETER — St. Peter homeowners offering up their unoccupied properties for short-term rentals will now be regulated under a new ordinance passed by the City Council Monday.

Cities across the country have weighed similar ordinances in recent years as vacation rental reservation websites like Airbnb grew in popularity. St. Peter has at least three properties listed on the site, although the operations weren’t in line with previous zoning ordinances if the homeowners didn’t live in the homes.

The new ordinance accounts for those rental arrangements, requiring the property owners to apply for a conditional use permit to continue renting.

Approval of the conditional use permits would come after a public hearing and mailed notice to other property owners within 350 feet. The operations will also be subject to the same licensing and inspection procedures in place for traditional rental properties in St. Peter.

The changes shouldn’t have much of an impact on business, said Holly Springer, who rents the Engesser House in St. Peter through Airbnb.

“It sounds reasonable,” she said. “We can only expect it’ll be good for everyone involved.”

Springer started renting the four-bedroom home about a year ago after obtaining it in fall 2017. Business has ebbed and flowed since, with the summer and fall being busiest.

Most of the guests so far came to town for events at nearby Gustavus Adolphus College. Weddings and family gatherings are the other main draws, Springer said.

She said any required inspections for smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors shouldn’t be a problem for her or the other short-term rental property owners.

“We want to keep everyone safe, and that’s our No. 1 goal,” she said. “Just like in our own homes.”

St. Peter’s Planning and Zoning Commission invited property owners to a July 2018 public hearing on the proposed changes. Council input shaped the ordinance since then, with discussions continuing into Monday’s meeting.

At issue was the maximum occupancy allowed per bedroom, how to regulate owner-occupied properties, and maximum length of stays. A 30-day limit for stays is included in the ordinance, although council members inquired about a process for homeowners to allow longer stays for emergency situations like a family displaced by a fire.

They also discussed dealing with maximum occupancy on a case-by-case basis, with exceptions above the two-per-bedroom limit handled during the conditional use permitting process. City staff will work with the zoning commission on the tweaks ahead of additional council action on the unresolved items at a future meeting.

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