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Superior City Council delays start of short-term rental licenses

In a closed session, councilors approved a settlement offer in a lawsuit filed by Walmart over assessed value.

Government Center in Superior
Government Center, Superior, Wis.
Jed Carlson / Superior Telegram
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SUPERIOR — The city is delaying a requirement to license short-term rentals in the city until July 1.

The council amended the ordinance Tuesday, Oct. 18, to postpone the requirement that was supposed to start Jan. 1.

“In the license and fees committee, we’re still working on the short-term rental application and there’s a lot of moving pieces to that,” said Councilor Brent Fennessey, chairman of the committee. “We want to make sure we get it right before it actually goes … in force.”

The committee is working to streamline the process for applicants, including developing a guide that will help people get through the inspection process and ensure the safety of the public that relies on short-term rentals like those advertised on Airbnb and VRBO.

By changing the one-year license period to start in July, Fennessey said the inspection period would coincide with other licenses the Douglas County Health Department is inspecting, which has to inspect all short-term rentals. The county health department is the state agent responsible for environmental health inspections.

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The guide the committee is working to develop will include health, building code and fire inspection requirements.

With the change in the ordinance, the new deadline to apply or renew licenses for short-term rentals in Superior will be March 1. After the initial license is issued, renewals that come in later than March 1 would be subjected to a $25 late fee.

The changes to the ordinance also require anyone who operates a short-term rental more than 10 nights per year to have Wisconsin tourist rooming house license, a seller’s permit issued by the Wisconsin Department of Revenue, and a certificate of liability insurance with minimum coverage of $300,000 per occurrence.

In other business

  • Approved a project partnership agreement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The agreement allows the city to receive $450,000 in federal funding to help pay for repairs to the Hill Avenue interceptor, a main sewer line running from South Superior to the Wastewater Treatment Plant on East First Street.
  • Took no action following a public hearing on adding Fairlawn Mansion and SS to the Municipal Register of Historic Places. Councilors set a public hearing for 6:30 p.m. Nov. 1 to consider adding the Old Firehouse and Police Museum to the registry. All three Superior Public Museums sites could be added to the registry at that time.
  • Approved five-year leases with Blue Water Paddling and WikiWiki for slips at the Barker’s Island boat launch. Both organizations have been instrumental in bringing dragon boats to the area and offer programming that allows people to learn about and try the sport.
  • Met in closed session to discuss a settlement with Walmart Real Estate Business Trust in the company’s lawsuits regarding it’s assessed property values. While the council did approve an undisclosed settlement offer, Mayor Jim Paine said it wouldn’t drop the Superior store’s assessed value to $7.1 million as the company was seeking. The store is currently valued at $12.1 million agreed to in a 2020 settlement of similar lawsuits filed in 2017, 2018 and 2019. The current offer would settle a suit filed Aug. 5 for Walmart’s 2022 valuation if accepted by the company.
    The retailer is asking the city to drop the assessed value of the store property from $12.1 million to $7.1 million.
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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