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Residents worry rentals harm quality of life

Residents living on Barker's Island feel misled concerning a four-acre townhouse development planned for undeveloped land neighboring their homes. They don't believe they're alone. They believe city officials, councilors and everyone else with an...

Residents living on Barker's Island feel misled concerning a four-acre townhouse development planned for undeveloped land neighboring their homes.

They don't believe they're alone. They believe city officials, councilors and everyone else with an interest in the island have been misled, too.

That revelation came when developers planning the townhouses were asked about the potential for short-term rental of the townhouses -- a week or less -- by the future owners.

However, developers Marshall Weems and Bob Coborn, partners in Barker's Cove LLC, say there is no scheme to turn the townhouse development into any kind of a vacation resort.

Barker's Island resident Carol Lund wants the development agreement the council considers tonight and special use permit the plan commission considers Wednesday to prohibit daily or weekly townhouse rentals.

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"Myself and other residents are very concerned that we not have commercial use in this area," she told the city's redevelopment authority last week. "... We don't want commercial use in our residential neighborhood."

Currently, the proposed development parcel will include a buffer between residents and commercial activity at Barker's Island Marina. Lund said allowing weekly rental of the townhouses creates problems such as traffic and parking that the area isn't equipped to handle.

"I know when my family goes up the North Shore and rents condo units, we have three families that are coming. We generally have six or seven vehicles ... in the beginning you were talking about residential, and this is a whole other operation."

Port and Planning Director Jason Serck said language could be included in either the development agreement or special use permit that would prohibit short-term rentals. In fact, the special use permit will contain language that would prohibit rentals less than seven days and any kind of commercial development in the area, he said today.

City ordinance doesn't prohibit anyone from renting their home for a week at a time, Serck said. While a rental license and off-street parking may be required, he said anyone in any residential neighborhood could rent their property to another.

Coborn said he would have no objection to provisions that would limit a homeowner's ability to rent the property for less than a week, but they don't want a preclusion that would limit a homeowner's ability to rent their property on a weekly basis.

"Many of these units will be owned by investors who will expect some rental of their units, Coborn said. "But it's not going to be less than a vacation home, which would be on a weekly basis. We don't want that preclusion. Less than a week, that's something we can consider."

Michelle Johnsted, president of the Barker's Island Homeowners Association, was unable to attend the redevelopment authority last week. She said she was very concerned when she learned from other island residents that short-term rentals could be allowed.

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"I was just shocked because that was not in any of the information we've seen anywhere, in any of the proposals," Johnsted said. Even the day before the redevelopment authority met, she said, Serck and Councilor Jackie Stenberg made no mention of that potential when they met with Barker's Island homeowners.

While the Barker's Island Homeowners Association allows property owners to rent their homes, Johnsted said the minimum period is 30 days.

Jack Culley of Barker's Island Development Corp. said that limitation was written into the special use permit issued for the existing development on the island.

"I feel we've been lied to," Johnsted said. "The whole city's been lied to ... we're not being told the truth."

Coborn said there has been no attempt to misrepresent the plan.

"It is not our intention at all that this entire project be rented out on a weekly basis," Coborn said. "Any other residential home -- including mine -- can be rented on a weekly basis ... you're not going to see 38 units rented on a weekly basis."

The proposal is for residential townhouses, Weems said.

"This distortion and misinformation has got to stop at some point," Weems said. " ... We haven't changed the deal, what we're talking about. What Bob said is there's potential. If you have a friend that wanted to rent it out for a week and you owned it, you want to be able to do that. As Bob said, there's no infrastructure out there that would allow weekly rentals on an ongoing basis."

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Weems said they just want people who buy into the development to have the ability to rent their property if they chose.

"It's flat out deception," Culley said.

"There's no secret plan here," Weems said.

Shelley Nelson can be reached at (715) 395-5022 or snelson@superiortelegram.com .

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