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Bemidji City Council: Rental ban may be decided

Will they or won't they?

A final decision is expected Monday on the proposed moratorium that would prohibit, for up to one year, the conversion of single-family homes to rental properties.

The Bemidji City Council is slated to hold the final reading an ordinance that would enact the moratorium during its regular council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall.

If supported by the majority of the council, the moratorium would go into effect 30 days after legal publication.

The first reading of the ordinance was held July 6, and a second reading and public hearing was held July 20.

Nineteen people addressed the City Council during the public hearing, the majority of whom were Realtors or real-estate investors. Seventeen of those who spoke were against the moratorium; one person was in favor and one was on the fence.

The ordinance would not allow new rental licenses for single-family homes. Renewal licenses would not be impacted.

The ordinance also allows for the City Council to grant new rental licenses in cases of "unique hardship."

The city of Bemidji, according to council documents, has experienced a 40 percent to 50 percent increase in the number of rental-occupied single-family homes since 2005.

Councilors have citied a concern about the loss of single-family residential character in Bemidji's core neighborhoods.

During the public hearing last month, several opponents of the moratorium instead urged the City Council to enforce its rental codes. In response, City Attorney Al Felix has drafted a memorandum, included in Monday's agenda packet, which outlines the resources and tools available to the city for doing so.

For enforcement tools, according to Felix, there are the Rental Registration Ordinance, Property Maintenance Code, Uniform Building Code, Uniform Fire Code, Bemidji City Code, the Hazardous and Substandard Building Statute and the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board's Planning and Zoning Ordinance.

The city has cited other regional centers, or college towns, as having similar rental issues, such as Duluth, St. Cloud, Mankato and Moorhead.

Other agenda items

Other matters expected to be considered by the City Council are as follows:

- Consideration of a new Joint Powers Agreement for the Kitchigami Regional Library System.

- Consideration of a left-turn lane from Irvine Avenue to Seventh Street to enter the Beltrami County campus. If the council does opt for the left-turn lane, no parking would be allowed between Sixth and Eighth streets.

- Consideration of awarding the bid for the reconstruction of Parking Lot No. 3 in downtown. Reierson Construction is the low bid of four received with a bid of $98,263.90, which is $1,800 less than the city's estimate. Financing for the project will come the Parking Development Fund.