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Duluth councilors propose abolishing 300-foot rental rule

Four Duluth city councilors have proposed eliminating a ban on new rental licenses within 300 feet of existing ones. The proposal could be discussed Monday, but would not be voted on until April 28 at the earliest. This ordinance is the latest ch...

Four Duluth city councilors have proposed eliminating a ban on new rental licenses within 300 feet of existing ones.

The proposal could be discussed Monday, but would not be voted on until April 28 at the earliest.

This ordinance is the latest chapter in a saga several years old over what to do about the transformation of many family homes into rentals filled with college students. The problem is focused around the University of Minnesota Duluth and College of St. Scholastica campuses.

The debate heated up in August when the council approved the 300-foot ordinance.

Though there was a failed bid to rid the city of the ordinance late last year, the issue resurfaced recently.

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Last month, Councilor Roger Reinert proposed eliminating the rental restriction everywhere in the city, except for neighborhoods near the two colleges.

That plan is on hold while the new proposal is considered, which says there would be no area where new rentals would be forbidden.

Councilors opted last month to form a commission of people on all sides of the issue -- residents, landlords, students and city staff -- who would present a proposal to the council in late May, based on several years of research already done.

Why not wait for that commission to finish, asked Councilor Jim Stauber, author of the 300-foot ordinance. "They're going to just delete the 300-foot rule and not let anyone weigh in on it," he said.

Councilor Jeff Anderson said the issue has been studied enough, and it's time for action.

"Delaying it any more is unhealthy for our city, unhealthy for property owners, and it's bad policy," Anderson said. "We're going to force some people into bankruptcy or foreclosure because they can't sell their property."

Some councilors argue the rule is hurting homeowners.

"They can't sell their home. They can't rent their home. They're kind of in purgatory, so to speak," said Councilor Todd Fedora, one of the sponsors of the ordinance, along with Councilors Jay Fosle, Reinert and Anderson.

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Fedora said forbidding new rentals in neighborhoods around the colleges just shifts the problem to other neighborhoods.

Fedora and Anderson said they want to work on harsher nuisance laws and other remedies so the core of students who are misbehaving can be addressed.

In addition to the four sponsors of the change, Councilors Sharla Gardner and Tony Cuneo talked during their campaigns about problems they've had with the rule.

Cuneo, who is part of the commission reviewing the work that has been done on the rental housing issue, said he would like to wait to vote on the matter until the commission completes its work.

"I'm leaning towards giving the commission 'til the end of May to bring forward these ideas," Cuneo said.

Councilors Greg Gilbert and Garry Krause voted to implement the 300-foot rule last year.

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