BEMIDJI -- Operations of short-term vacation rental properties and potential regulations for them in Beltrami County were reviewed Tuesday.

During its meeting, the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners heard a presentation with details about short-term rentals, known commonly as Airbnbs or VRBOs (Vacation Rental by Owner), in reference to two companies that assist property owners with renting. The rentals include homes or sections of homes rented for a period of fewer than 30 days.

Environmental Services Director Brent Rud, whose office covers matters related to the county's planning commission, septic systems management and shoreland rules, gave the commissioners a rundown of benefits and concerns that come with the rentals.

On the positive side, Rud said the rentals can support tourism, benefit small businesses and provide property owners additional income. Plus, Rud said most of the operators are good stewards of the community.

However, Rud also noted that such rentals create commercial activity in a residential zone and it can impact a neighborhood's quality of life. Additionally, there is currently no process or standard for complaints, and property owners may be under-insured.

Newsletter signup for email alerts

Because of those concerns, the Greater Bemidji Area Joint Planning Board, which has jurisdiction for planning and zoning for Bemidji and Northern Township, banned short-term rentals in 2018. Four short-term rentals already in existence were grandfathered in as part of the ordinance language, but future rentals were prohibited.

In his presentation, Rud said various local governments have established rules and regulations to allow the rentals to operate. Aitkin County, for example, requires an interim use permit that sets occupancy limits among other regulations, which must be approved by their planning commission.

Crow Wing County, meanwhile, requires an annual license. As part of the license, an owner or manager of the rental must respond to complaints within one hour and it can be revoked after three validated complaints.

Following Rud's presentation, the board suggested he draft a rental rules document, which will then go before the planning commission for review.

New recreation area

Another presentation given to the board Tuesday was related to the proposed creation of a new recreation area. In the presentation, the commissioners were briefed on a 230-acre tax-forfeited lot of land, located within the limits of Wilton, as well as Grant Valley and Eckles Townships.

Last month, staff from Beltrami County Natural Resource Management held a public meeting with interested parties to discuss what the area should be used for. The proposed Wilton Hill Recreation Area was the result.

The following rules for the area were suggested as part of the proposal:

  • Park hours will be from sunrise to sunset for day use, with no overnight camping.
  • The area will be open to hunting, but only portable deer stands will be allowed.
  • Target shooting will be prohibited.
  • All garbage will be removed and disposed of by users.
  • It will be unlawful to build or maintain a fire, except in a fireplace, grill or fire ring.
  • Pets will be personally attended to at all times.

Following a discussion, the board approved a resolution creating the new recreation area. As part of the approval, the commissioners clarified that motorized vehicles would be allowed in the northwest section of the area and prohibited in the southeast region.