Duluth City Councilor seeks repeal of rental ordinance

The controversial 300-foot rental ordinance passed in Duluth last year might be scrapped if the City Council approves a proposal by At Large Councilor Jeff Anderson.

The controversial 300-foot rental ordinance passed in Duluth last year might be scrapped if the City Council approves a proposal by At Large Councilor Jeff Anderson.

The ordinance has caused numerous problems since it was passed last year with the aim of providing relief to homeowners in college neighborhoods who feared that too many homes were being turned into rentals. Some people in unlicensed properties were sent eviction notices; others who had bought homes and wanted to turn their homes into rentals were told they couldn't and were stuck with second mortgages.

Anderson said Tuesday that ridding the city of the ordinance will be a first step toward truly fixing the long-running headaches involving the proliferation of college rentals, primarily around the colleges.

"The 300-foot rule doesn't work," he said.

He pointed to recent moves by both Mayor Don Ness and Councilor Jim Stauber -- the original architect of the 300-foot ordinance -- as evidence that the new law isn't working. Ness recently stopped evictions prompted by the new ordinance until June 1, and Councilor Jim Stauber has proposed a 30-day grace period for landlords renting illegally.


Anderson said he also hopes that Councilor Roger Reinert will propose an ordinance within the week that will put a yearlong restriction on new rentals in neighborhoods surrounding the College of St. Scholastica and the University of Minnesota Duluth.

Reinert said Thursday night that he would introduce the ordinance that, under a law passed last year, would go into effect as soon as it is placed on a City Council agenda.

"We're seeing hardship after hardship across the city," he said. "This is clearly an acute problem that impacts only part of the community."

But Stauber fears that killing the 300-foot rule and putting a moratorium on rentals will only bring more problems. To start, the people who purchased rental licenses to ensure compliance with the ordinance could be extremely upset, Stauber said.

And if a short-term moratorium is put in place, Stauber said he believes the council will need to work fast to come up with a permanent solution.

"If we don't have a solution in place at the end of the period, we return to the rental chaos that existed," Stauber said. "If you scrap the 300-foot rule, the clock starts ticking."

And coming up with a solution, Stauber said, won't be easy. He said the council has been dealing with the issue for about 10 years.

"For any councilor to think that he can put together a solution in 12 months, that's a high degree of optimism I would question," Stauber said. "There is no silver bullet for a problem like this."


Anderson said he doesn't have a solution in mind yet.

Instead, he said, stopping new rental licenses just around the colleges would give all sides involved in the debate time to work toward a permanent set of local laws dealing with the problem.

City Councilor Sharla Gardner said she supports Anderson's proposal.

"It seems like we get two or three e-mails every week about how it's not working," she said.

But Anderson was quick to point out that part of the ongoing discussion will be how to penalize problem landlords and nuisance properties.

"We can't let people off the hook," Anderson said.

Duluth police are looking at ways to make the laws more effective, he said.

Anderson said he chose to introduce the measure this week so councilors could discuss the issue during their retreat this weekend.


"We have to be more targeted on the approach," Anderson said.

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