MINOCQUA – The Minocqua town board on Tuesday forged ahead with its own ordinance on licensing short-term rentals in single-family residential districts, rather than wait for the county to act. The vote was 3-1.
The ordinance is in response to the state Legislature, which took away the power of local municipalities to prohibit rentals of less than 30 days in all zoning districts. Local municipalities are allowed to prohibit rentals for less than seven days, which Minocqua does so with this ordinance.
The new ordinance becomes effective this Friday after publication. It establishes licensing fees and the steps a homeowner must follow in order to get a license. The ordinance does not affect rentals of 30 days or more. Supervisor Billy Fried voted against the ordinance, saying much of what’s in there is already regulated by the county, or will be once the county enacts its own short-term rental ordinance. However, the county isn’t likely to have its ordinance ready before June, and it will be limited in scope compared to Minocqua’s, Fried conceded. He is also a county supervisor.
Supervisor and resort owner Sue Heil abstained from voting. While much of the town’s and county’ attention has been on the impact on single-family residential districts, the change in state law also applies to the county’s other zoning districts where short-term rentals had been prohibited: Residential and Retail, Rural Residential, and Forestry 1-A, 1-B, 1-C Districts. Those seeking to rent dwellings on a short-term basis in Minocqua will need a state tourist rooming house license; a state seller’s permit; possibly a county administrative review permit; town short-term rental license; and town room tax permit. Various town fees apply, including the $500 application fee. The county administrative review permit is $250.
Supervisors tweaked the ordinance Tuesday, the third time it’s been before the board. A couple of changes were made at the urging of Sue Morris, owner of Northwoods Property Management, LLC. The ordinance applies to property managers venturing into rentals within single-family districts. Some parts of the ordinance language duplicated others, she said. As these are residential units, she saw no need for requiring commercial-grade fire extinguishers and smoke detectors, etc. Nor were separate fire code inspections by the Minocqua Fire Department needed, as they required in the county health department’s requirements for issuing a tourist rooming house permit. The board agreed on those points and removed them. It was noted that the town’s fire department makes over 1,000 fire inspections each year of commercial properties in the township.
Adding short-term rental properties would be a burden, agreed town chairman Mark Hartzheim. The board, on advice of town attorney Greg Harrold, didn’t agree with Morris’s request to require property managers have a broker license. Harrold said a broker’s license is not needed if the property manager is showing only rental properties. The town will allow outdoor events at such properties, but only for one day, closing no later than 10 p.m. and cannot violate the town’s noise ordinance. Fried wanted it kept to 9 p.m. as the original version stated. Morris noted that state law would prohibit entry to rental property by town officials or their representatives without a 24-hour notice, unless authorities believe there was potential harm to person or property.
Language in earlier versions of the ordinance seemed to imply entry could be made without that 24-hour notice, regardless of circumstances. Hartzheim said neither he nor the town clerk Roben Haggart has seen any applications yet for short-term rental permits. Haggart said her office should be able to handle the paperwork in issuing permits for short-term rentals. “We’ll manage it,” she said. Morris thanked those who worked on the ordinance, but reserved judgment on its effectiveness and scope. “Is it perfect yet? No. Will it ever be? Who knows?” “But I think it’s a start,” she continued. “Unfortunately we got handed this on a platter (from the Legislature) that we didn’t want. And it was a surprise to all of us, not only to municipalities like Minocqua, but also to counties like Oneida. And Vilas County is struggling with this as well.” Hartzheim conceded the ordinance wasn’t “perfect,” but noted it is a “living, breathing document” that can be changed in the future as needed.
And while it imposes some restrictions and fees on future landlords, “We didn’t push it everywhere we could,” he said. For instance, the state allows municipalities to hold such short-term rentals to a maximum of 180 days in a calendar year, but the town chose not to do so.