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Short-term rental licenses could be delayed in Superior

The city's license and fees committee may need more time to streamline inspections before licenses for short-term rentals, including offerings on Airbnb and VRBO, go into effect.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wisconsin.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — A city ordinance adopted in June could undergo change even before it goes into effect.

The ordinance created a licensing requirement for short-term rentals starting Jan. 1. However, the date it goes into effect could change as the license and fees committee works through inspection requirements to make issuing the licenses easier for property owners to meet.

The committee is working to develop a guide to ensure people who offer up their property for vacation stays on websites like Airbnb and VRBO can meet health, building and fire inspections required by the ordinance.

“We want to make it work,” Councilor Jack Sweeney said. “We want to start out doing it right.”

The committee just started reviewing inspection requirements from the county health department and city building inspection and fire departments Monday, Sept. 26.

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Councilor Brent Fennessey said he wasn’t confident that the necessary work could be completed in time to create a guideline for property owners to meet the Nov. 1 deadline to apply for the license. He also had concerns that the health, fire and building inspection departments could complete the necessary inspections on the approximately 40 properties the city is aware of between Nov. 1 and the Jan. 1 date when licensing would be required.

“Forty is the bare minimum right now,” Sweeney said.

The committee briefly discussed allowing self-inspection but made no decision on that proposition.

The initial inspection is very important, said Peter Kruit, chief building inspector.

City ordinance requires all rental properties to have a higher level of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors — tamper proof with 10-year batteries — than state statute, he said. And while a single-family home rented in its entirety may meet egress requirements, he said someone renting an attic or basement bedroom may not meet code.

The committee agreed they would need more time to develop guidelines that would assist property owners who offer short-term rentals.

“I think we’re all on the same page with what we’re trying to accomplish,” Fennessey said. “… not be too overbearing, being streamlined enough that it doesn’t discourage this. It’ll just take a couple of meetings to figure it out.”

The committee briefly discussed the possibility of changing the licensing period outlined in the ordinance; however, with no proposal to change the city code on the agenda, committee members agreed that option should be included on their next agenda.

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A change to the new ordinance would be required to delay the licensing requirement. The committee meets again Oct. 10.

This story was updated at 8:25 a.m. Oct. 5 with the correct date of the committee meeting. It originally posted at 8 a.m. Sept. 29.

Shelley Nelson is a reporter with the Duluth Media Group since 1997, and has covered Superior and Douglas County communities and government for the Duluth News Tribune from 1999 to 2006, and the Superior Telegram since 2006. Contact her at 715-395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com.
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