WALKER - As it has become harder for investment property owners to re-sell homes they purchased, they have turned to a different way to get a return on their investment that has neighbors appealing to the county board for answers.
Residents in Isle Harbor development on Leech Lake, which lies inside the Federal Dam city limits, and from Blackwater Lake Association in Woodrow Township between Hackensack and Longville appeared before the county board Tuesday.
The issue is that absentee owners have rented single-family homes in those neighborhoods to vacationers by the night and week as if the property were a resort.
Environmental Services Director John Sumption provided the board with copies of the county ordinance and a proposed state DNR regulation, both of which define a resort at a property where at least three cabins, rooms, buildings or structures are rented and which is state licensed as a lodging facility.
Under those definitions, renting one single family home does not make it a resort, he said.
"It's happening on every lake in the county," Commissioner Jeff Peterson said.
Isle Harbor is a development along the east side of Leech Lake. It includes 66 lots, 37 of which have homes on them. Gary Bales, who owns and lives in a home there, said 25 percent of the developed lot owners rent their homes to vacationers. Twelve to 15 people stay in each house at a time, he said.
This is drawing business away from nearby struggling legitimate resorts, he said. It also changes the neighborhood from one of quieter single-family homes, he added.
Rental owners collect $200 per night, but only pay $25 per renter to the Isle Harbor Property Owners Association toward clean up and maintenance in the community, Bales said.
He objected to trespassing on his property and the fact that renters get the impression the whole community is part of a big resort, despite the fact 75 percent of the homes are privately owned and occupied.
Bales suggested the Cass commissioners look at recently enacted Stearns County vacation home rental regulations.
Elmer Schwerin of Blackwater Lake Association said the problem is the same on his lake where a few houses are being rented to vacationers.
A check of the Web site for one Blackwater Lake home shows an advertisement for a five-bedroom fully furnished log home with granite countertops in the kitchen renting for $1,200 per night or $7,950 per week in 2009. It is described as adequate for 18 to 30 people.
Jim Lorbeski, who lives adjacent to Blackwater rental houses, told the board he thinks the county is hung up on the term "resort." "How is this not a business?" he asked.
He said renters use his garbage cans. They come to his house to ask about renting boats, thinking his home is the resort office. They are here on vacation, he said, so it is common to be awakened at 2 or 3 a.m. by people partying.
The rental property owners don't even live in Minnesota, he said.
"I can't live there anymore," Lorbeski said. "I worked all my life to get this retirement home and now I can't even sell it," he told the board.
The county board voted to meet with Federal Dam City Council and Woodrow Township Board to try to see whether there might be a local resolution to these two specific cases.
Administrator Robert Yochum also suggested the board seek legal advice on the issue from the county attorney.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.