Various Government Related Stories
City plans new condo licensing, higher registration fees
Minneapolis will begin licensing rental units in condominiums and townhomes, giving it more leverage to deal with conduct problems, a city licensing official said.
In a related issue, the city proposes registration fee changes for condo and townhome associations and leasehold cooperatives, a plan that has raised the ire of City Councilmember Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), who represents a number of condo and townhome owners in Southwest and downtown Minneapolis.
The city historically registered rental units in condo and townhome associations but did not license them like apartments, said Janine Atchison, district supervisor with Housing Inspection Services.
The change means the city will inspect condo and townhome rental units and subject them to city licensing codes, she said. For instance, if a rented condo or townhome unit has chronic problems with loud parties or drug issues, licensing staff could force the owner to address the problem or lose the license.
"We heard a strong message from condo and townhome associations -- they don't feel like they have a lot of control over rental units within their buildings when there are conduct issues," Atchison said.
The City Council voted 12-0 Dec. 29 to license condo and townhome rentals.
Goodman supports the licensing measure, she said. However, she also opposes registration fee increases.
Registration gives city the names of responsible parties to contact to fix code violations, such as a fence problem or subpar siding, Atchison said.
City registration fees are $20 a year for condominiums or townhomes of five units or fewer; $35 for buildings with six to 15 units; $50 for buildings with 16 to 50 units and $100 for buildings with more than 50 units.
Councilmember Dan Niziolek (10th Ward), chair of the Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee, proposes a fee increase of $15 to $25 per category, so the city would charge from $35 to $125, depending on the size of the building.
Atchison said condo and townhome associations have registered with the city since the mid-1970s. According to a city memo, the fees have not been increased since then, and Niziolek said the increases reflected the program's cost.
Goodman said the city can't justify charging any fee for the service -- which she said amounts to typing a few names into a computer -- let alone an increase.
Atchison said between the higher registration fees and new licensing, the city would break even. A new registration fee structure would fix a disparity that has meant townhomes pay more than condos. The city now charges by the building, not by the unit, so a 48-unit, eight-building townhome pays $280 in registration fees, while a 48-unit, single-building condo pays $50.
The city would now charge by the unit, Atchison said. Condos would pay more under the new plan and townhomes less.
Goodman argues that higher charges aren't justified.
"Under state law, as it pertains to fees, there has to be a direct correlation between the fee assessed and the service rendered," she said. "I don't see any additional service rendered here. … This is about how do you bilk the public for more money."
Atchison referred state law questions to Assistant City Attorney Henry Reimer.
Reimer said city fees have to be roughly proportionate to the cost of regulation.
"It doesn't have to be exact," said Reimer, who did not draft the fee change ordinance. "It just has to be a ballpark figure; it just has to be justifiable to a judge. There is no formula or real scientific look at it. It just has to be reasonable."
The Public Safety and Regulatory Services Committee will discuss the issue Wednesday, Feb. 4.
-- Scott Russell
City Council actions
McManus: Council voted 9-4 to appoint William McManus to a three-year term as the city's next police chief. Lisa Goodman (7th Ward), Robert Lilligren (8th Ward), Dan Niziolek (10th Ward) and Sandy Colvin Roy (12th Ward) voted no.
Legislative agenda: Council voted 13-0 to approve the city's legislative agenda, with a $24 million borrowing request for the new planetarium among its top priorities.
LaSalle: Council voted 13-0 to approve the project layout for the $3 million rebuild of LaSalle Avenue from West Grant Street to Franklin Avenue.
Assessor: Council voted 13-0 to allow the reappointment of Scott Renne as city assessor for a two-year term.
Planning Commission: Council voted 13-0 to confirm the mayor's reappointment of Judith Martin and Michael Krause to the Planning Commission.
Taco Morelos: Council voted 12-0 to approve a liquor license with Sunday sales for Taco Morelos, 14 W. 26th St. Scott Benson (11th Ward) abstained.
Streetcars, take 1: Council voted 13-0 to authorize a 20-year lease to the Minnesota Transportation Museum to use city-owned land between Lake Calhoun and Lake Harriet for operating an historic streetcar system.
Streetcars, take 2: Gary Schiff (9th Ward) proposed exploring the feasibility of a streetcar system. It was referred to the Community Development, Intergovernmental Relations and Transportation, and Public Works committees.
PRT: Dean Zimmermann (6th Ward) proposed studying the feasibility of a personal rapid transit (PRT) system. It was referred to multiple committees, including Transportation and Public Works.
Rezone: Schiff moved to amend a Dec. 15 Council action that denied the request of Todd Cushman, 3629 1st Ave. S., to rezone from R1A to R3 to make an existing two-family home conforming. Council voted 13-0 to pass an ordinance to rezone.
Malt liquor: Niziolek introduced a new ordinance regulating off-sale malt liquor. It was referred to Public Safety and Regulatory Services.
-- Scott Russell