By Nicole Brodzik
At the June 27 Mound City Council meeting, the council heard updates on road and building products before discussing the possibility of setting up regulations for short term rental housing.
Brian Simmons from Bolton and Menk Inc. was on hand to present a feasibility report and ask for a hearing on the 2018 Westedge Boulevard Street Utility and Retaining Wall Improvement Project.
“One point of order here, is why are we talking about this now?” he said. “Usually I’m here in October, but right now Met Council is driving the bus.”
The Metropolitan Council is continuing a number of improvements in the area, that will include improving the forcemain that conveys flows from Mound to Blue Lake and runs along Westedge Boulevard. Their project is a two-year effort, meaning it’s on their calendar for bidding this fall. Mound is combining their water main improvements with this project, so bidding must be on the table this fall.
“We’re reconstructing the road in its existing foot print,” Simmons said. “With the water main improvements we’ll be upping the size of pipe in certain areas to improve fire flow.”
The city is working on this project now because the Met Council’s project will help offset a portion of the costs that would have otherwise prohibited the city from doing the improvements. The total cost of the project is estimated at $2,683,000. The city is responsible for about $1,784,000.
“One thing for people to know is that if we had chosen to do this on our own, which we wouldn’t have, those numbers would be a lot bigger,” Mayor Mark Wegschied said.
A public hearing for the project is set for the second Mound City Council meeting of this month on July 25.
The motion was unanimously approved by the council.
The Serenity Hill on Halsted Bay developers also submitted their final plat for the council’s approval. The 6-building, 70-unit project will be placed on a plot of land shared between Mound and Minnetrista. It is being marketed as an active senior living community for people over the age of 60.
Only one of those buildings will be placed on the Mound part of the property, three quarters of the project is in Minnetrista. Mound’s Community Development Director Sarah Schmidt said that staff recommends that the council approve the final plat.
“This project has been with us now for probably about a year and a half,” Schmidt said. “Last fall we undertook a rezoning to make it a medium residency residential. The project received approvals earlier this year on Jan. 10.”
The Serenity Hill project has received approvals from the Watershed district and Hennepin County subject to conditions and the final plat was approved by the Minnetrista City Council. The Mound plot of land has also been formally purchased by the developer.
“I think it’s a great project,” Wegscheid said. “I think this is going to be good for both communities.”
The council unanimously approved the plat and development agreement.
Next up, was another housing project update. This was a discussion of the Dutch Lake Preserve development, which was asking for a trio of resolutions to the proposal, including approving the final plat for the project.
Mound Planning Consultant Rita Trapp explained where the council currently stands on this project.
“In July 2016, you approved the preliminary plat for the development of the 72-unit rental housing, memory care unit,” she said.
Trapp explained that the project is remaining mostly the same as proposed. One notable change she mentioned was that at the rear of project, a deck that was originally approved will now be a patio, but she said it won’t have much of an impact on the project and did not need the council’s approval.
Demolition is already taking place at the site and the developer noted the project is moving forward as projected.
The council also voted to approve the rescinding of a 1995 resolution for a screened porch and a 1990 restrictive covenant that are no longer necessary.
The last item on their agenda was a discussion of short term vacation house rental options in Mound. Smith spoke on this matter as well. After a citizen’s comment at their last council meeting, the city staff researched the idea of regulating rental housing in the area, especially in light of the upcoming Superbowl in Minneapolis in the February.
“These Air BnB’s, or what’s commonly known as VRBOs are on the rise,” Smith said. “We thought we should look into whether or not it would be worth having licensing for short term rentals.”
Mound does not currently have any rental regulations for single or multiple family type structures. Smith noted that Lake Minnetonka has become a destination for many from in and out of state.
“As we’re hearing from residents, we want to make sure those uses, if appropriate, are acceptable without regulations or to know if we need them to stay compatible with neighborhoods,” Smith said.
She then asked to hear if the council feels like there is a need for a study, saying similar studies were recently done for animal and parking regulations. She said they would hope to have results in the fall, if the council decided they wanted a study done.
“It never really occurred to me that those are here,” Wegschied said. “For me, it was eye opening to put my eyes in shoes of neighbors who are living next to them every day. I think we need to be educated and research is valid.”
Councilmember Ray Salazar said he agreed with Wegscheid and that he was opposed to short term rentals in the Mound neighborhoods in general.
“It’s not the norm here in our little town of Mound,” he said. “I think we need to be proactive on this and need to look at regulations. I don’t want to live next door, and I don’t think anyone wants to live next door, to short term rentals. This isn’t the place for that.”
Councilmember Kelli Gillespie said her next door neighbor has rented out their home as a VRBO in the past and that she had no problems with them.
“We had no issues, nothing,” she said. “I don’t think it’s a very simple answer. I think we’re going to get a lot of answers, ‘If we’re going to start doing this with one type of rental, why aren’t you doing it for all types of rentals?’”
Salazar came back saying that people renting are coming out to blow off steam and have fun and that he would not want to live next to something like that.
“I can tell you, the people who rented out the house next to me ended up buying a home in Mound because of it, so I don’t think you can say that,” Gillespie said. “I think we have a lot of issues with long term renters we need to address as well.”
Wegscheid made a final note saying that they would like some of the study to focus on how to enforce regulations, if they are deemed necessary. The council then asked for a study to be conducted.
The next Mound City Council Meeting is set to take place on July 18 at 7 p.m.