Wahkon Planning Commission

A handful of Wahkon residents voicing concerns over an interim use permit request made by another property owner for a vacation rental designation at the planning commission meeting on July 23.

 

The Wahkon planning commission held a public hearing on July 23 to review an interim use permit (IUP) request to allow a vacation rental on property owned by Katherine Rich located at 815 Highway 27 W. in Wahkon.

The property consists of approximately 5 acres and a home. The family said they would like to rent the house and property as an Airbnb and Vrbo, along with continued use by the family when not rented, to help generate income that would cover expenses associated with the house. The proposed end date for the rental would be when Katherine Rich no longer owns the property.

A number of residents were gathered to state their opposition and concerns to the granting of the permit. The property has been rented in the past, and at the meeting, adjacent landowners complained of renters firing off guns toward the Soo Line Trail, trespassing and causing excessive noise.

The commission opened up the meeting for discussion.

“I’m totally against it … they had a shooting range for two hours at 7 a.m.,” said one resident. “The Soo Line [trail] is right there, and we don’t know if anyone is walking back there. Also, they walk wherever they want, and you can’t stop them.”

“This lady showed up in my backyard with her poodle,” said another concerned resident. “My dogs went nuts and got out of the gate. She did say ‘so sorry’ and then went off. But if you could explain to people that they shouldn’t walk into other people’s yards, that would be good.”

“Last weekend, there were younger people there, with so much traffic coming and going and others coming and going all looking like young people,” said another resident. “There was nobody there, so you don’t know what’s going on when you’re not there. People were shooting off fireworks in your yard.”

Property owner Katherine Rich responded, “The kind of people we’re renting to are grandparents who want to have family together, ladies who want to have a weekend away to play bridge and fisherman … not people coming up to cause trouble. We would never want people in our home that would cause damage to our home or cause trouble with neighbors. It’s appalling to believe somebody brought a gun. It was my grandmother’s house and is a third generation [property]. We would do everything in our power to make sure nothing happens again.”

Rich’s son was present at the meeting and stated they haven’t received any complaints before this hearing, adding there is a camera on the property. “There are plenty of things we can do to be more strict,” he said.

Council member Ronda Bjornson said, “All of these things are things that go on in the neighborhood already, but I would have called 911 with guns going off. The dwelling is large, and I personally think it’s great for people to have somewhere to stay since there’s not a hotel in Wahkon now … and we all have large groups at our places.”

Wahkon Mayor Sandy Reichel suggested having the renters personally acknowledge the rules and added, “I do like that they have a camera.”

Council member Tony Button said, “Airbnb’s do have a good record most of the time … but it’s the neighbors I’m concerned about. Could be ten weeks of parties. But I hear you; it would be nice to have a rental property here.”

Zoning Administrator Darrin Well said the planning commision has eight criteria required to approve such an interim use permit.

The commission discussed each of the criteria, and with the requesting party of the IUP meeting each of the criteria, the commission will make a recommendation to approve the permit at the city council meeting on August 12. There the council will make a final decision.

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