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Beltrami County approves jail contract, sets hearing for short-term rental ordinance

The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday and set a date for a public hearing for a short-term rental ordinance and approved a contract for a Jail Needs and Feasibility Study.

Beltrami County Administration Building web art

BEMIDJI — The Beltrami County Board of Commissioners met Tuesday to discuss moving forward with a Jail Needs and Feasibility Study and implementing an ordinance regulating short-term rentals.

Short-term rentals, which include services like Airbnb and Vrbo, have been growing in popularity throughout the country, and estimates for just Vrbos in Beltrami County come in between 40 and 50.

With the growing popularity, there has been an increased need for regulation following complaints by neighbors and communities about disruptions and noise.

“I think we need to protect folks and their single-family residences,” said District 5 Commissioner Jim Lucachick. “When people move into a residential zone they figure it's going to be residential.”

The ordinance would create permits for those looking to provide short-term rentals, dividing them into groups based on max occupancy. It would also require operators to have a system of record-keeping in line with Minnesota law.

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Quiet hours would be put in place from the hours of 10 p.m. and 8 a.m. Areas meant for outdoor gathering, such as patios and firepits, would have to be designed in a way to be considerate of noise levels.

The ordinance would also require that parking spaces be provided on-site and not in yards, to prevent streets from being blocked.

The proposed ordinance would also install a complaint system to report any violations of these rules, which could result in a misdemeanor, fine or the revocation of the short-term rental permit.

All five commissioners seemed in favor of the drafted ordinance and set a public hearing for March 15 to allow for public comment.

Jail study contract

The board also approved a contract for a Jail Needs and Feasibility Study to be offered to the firm Justice Planners, LLC at an estimated cost of $135,500.

Justice Planners was one of two firms to submit a proposal to review the Beltrami County Jail, as a part of the Jail Project.

The study would include interviews with staff and appointed officials, reviews of facilities and programs, address demographic disparities and provide recommendations moving forward.

The overall goal of both the study and the broader Jail Project consists of improving the well-being and safety of both staff and inmates in addition to reducing the total jail population and its operating costs.

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Following board approval, work on the study is expected to begin next week, and the assessment and findings will be delivered to the board in August.

Position discussions

During the meeting, a motion was also made to change the position of county auditor-treasurer from an elected position to an appointed position. The current auditor-treasurer is JoDee Treat, who is responsible for county finances and administering elections.

The motion was spurred by concerns about a lack of required qualifications in the verbage for the position, but ultimately it did not reach the majority it needed to pass with both Lucachick and District 4 Commissioner Tim Sumner opposing it.

“I believe that the auditor-treasurer position is an important position and that our citizens should have the ability to pick and choose who their auditor-treasurer is,” Sumner said.

The next meeting of the Beltrami County Board of Commissioners is scheduled for Feb. 15.

Nicole Ronchetti is a reporter at the Bemidji Pioneer, focusing on local government and community health.
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