By Patrick Andrews
Shortly after the opening of Monday’s August 15 Wykoff, Minn., city council meeting, wastewater treatment plant supervisor Rick Whitney shared some good news regarding the city’s pump house. While it was thought that the old brick building may need replacing in its entirety, it appears renovation of the existing structure may be feasible. Mr. Whitney expressed optimism that with updates including insulation, pipes and an alarm system, the old building may be salvageable.
Arrangements have been made to remove the city’s old siren and tower. The siren, which once served as a noon and 6:00 whistle as well as a weather alarm, has been out of commission for years while two new functional sirens stand as its replacements. The city will be financially responsible for its removal, and someone has been found to carry out the work. Investigation would now be necessary to determine whether the city would be within ordinance to shut down street(s) for the project’s completion.
Two council members, Barbara Fate and Rebecca Schmidt, expressed interest in attending the 2023 Minnesota Redevelopment Conference in Bloomfield. The conference, held October 26 and 27, is hosted by the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development and will be focused on brownfield and redevelopment topics and projects. According to epa.gov, Brownfields is a federal EPA program which provides “grants and techinical assistance to communities” to “assess, safely clean up and sustainably reuse contaminated properties.” The council expressed interest in pursuing grant funding to clean up two Wykoff properties. The cost to attend the conference is $200 per person; Rebecca Schmidt noted, “…it’s well worth $400 to get there and try to get some of that funding to help clean up some of our dead spots.”
Discussion was also had regarding short-term house rentals such as those through services like Airbnb and Vrbo. The council received an email from a woman buying a home with the intention of turning it into an Airbnb rental and looking to better understand the relevant zoning ordinances. After investigating the issue, council members found relevant rules within state of Minnesota land usage ordinances. State statutes distinguish between “accessory use” and “conditional use” of residentially-zoned homes. The rental of up to two rooms in a residential home qualifies as “accessory use” and requires no conditional use permit. Rental of the whole residentially-zone home, however, as commonly practiced through services like Airbnb, qualifies as “conditional use” and requires a conditional use permit to be ordinance-compliant. In addition to the state ordinance, the city of Wykoff also charges bed and breakfast services $250 per year.
Additionally, during this process, council members “heard through the grapevine” of a Wykoff local renting out his parents’ residential property through Vrbo without having paid for conditional use permit or the city’s $250 fee. Certain council members voiced hesitation to push the man into compliance, but others countered that the city would be in violation of ordinance should the property continue to be rented as-is. Rebecca Schmidt said she spoke with the man on the phone, explained the situation, and has since been unable to find his online rental advertisement.
The issue of short-term online bed and breakfast services is a new one for Wykoff; while an online search reveals numerous options for similar rental services in cities like Preston and Lanesboro, the previously mentioned Vrbo rental was the first the council was aware of being offered in Wykoff. The practice being so uncommon in Wykoff, council members were actually unaware the city even charged a fee for lodging services.
Rebecca Schmidt said regarding the Wykoff Vrbo rental, “We’re not the only town… every small town, Lanesboro, Preston, they all have this lodging fee, short-term rental fee, so it’s not like we’re picking on him, it’s just we’ve never had anyone in town do it, and I have to admit, I did not have a clue that we… had this going on until this lady sent me the email and I started investigating.” The decision was made to notify the man of the council’s awareness of the rental property’s ordinanace violation.
Finally, repairs for the Wykoff Community Center were discussed. The center’s ramp was removed while the building’s siding was replaced, but in its deteriorated condition was unable to be reattached. The city has since found someone to rebuild the ramp. The city is poised to save tens of thousands of dollars on the replacement of the building’s north side flooring. Although an initial quote for the job exceeded $30,000, city officials have arranged for approximately $28,000 worth of flooring boards which, according to Rebecca Schmidt, “the federal government is handing to the city of Wykoff.” Costs will only include mileage to pick up the flooring and hiring workmen to install it in the community center.
Wykoff City Council meetings are held on the second Monday of each month at 7 p.m. in the city clerk’s office at 217 N. Gold St, Wykoff. The next meeing will be held on September 11.