County decides fate of vacation rental unit

The continuing saga of vacation rental homes in Mille Lacs County, dormant for a few months, sprung to life again at the Sept. 4 meeting of county commissioners.

Commissioners spent 45 minutes (75 percent of the meeting) discussing a request for an interim use permit before approving that request, with a change in the wording of one of the conditions under which it was granted.

John and Rebecca Alley had applied for the permit for an existing home in South Harbor Township that they have used in the past for a rental unit.

The county’s planning commission recommended approval of the request at its August meeting.

In the agenda packet for commissioners were color pictures of the property that were included with letters from neighbors recommending that the request be denied.

For example, John and Mary Pat Poepl, Hastings, who own a residence that adjoins the Alley property, accused the Alleys of moving survey stakes on their property without the Poepls’ permission.

“People purchase lake homes to get away and relax,” they wrote in a letter to the planning commission. “Having a busy resort-like property next door creates an incentive for existing property owners to leave and it discourages potential buyers.”

As the discussion went on, Commissioner Frank Courteau said he agreed with Land Services Office director Michele McPherson that a condition should be added to the permit to mark the property line.

But a bigger problem, Courteau said, was parking availability at the site.

With the maximum occupancy recommended by the planning commission for up to 12 people if an egress window is added, Courteau asked, “Where in the hell are they going to park?”

As the discussion continued, Courteau asked McPherson what her staff recommended in light of the survey that had been done.

McPherson responded that she would’ve recommended that the garage at that property also be used for parking so there would be room for five cars instead of three, or have the occupancy numbers dropped.

There was more discussion and then Commissioner Dan Whitcomb made a motion to modify the condition dealing with providing a physical demarcation of the east property line. The motion called for a fence to be installed by Oct. 1.

Commissioner Phil Peterson seconded the motion and it passed.

Then Whitcomb, with Peterson seconding, made a motion to approve the interim use permit and it passed.