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County considers ordinance on short-term rentals

Vacation rentals are common throughout Cook County. Photo by Joe Friedrichs
Vacation rentals are common throughout Cook County. Photo by Joe Friedrichs

The topic of vacation-rental properties was the focus of a meeting of the Cook County Board of Commissioners Tuesday, Feb. 19. Meeting in their 'committee of the whole' format, the board, county staff and some members of the community spoke on the topic for approximately an hour Tuesday.

Cook County officials and the local Vacation Rental Committee continue to discuss a means for oversight on vacation rentals in the county. Vacation rentals continue to be popular and revenue generators for some local property owners. However, Cook County has not officially implemented an ordinance that would prohibit or restrict the use of vacation rentals. There is also not a separate tax bracket for vacation rentals to date.

With that in mind, change is likely coming, both financially and with regard to licensing, for anyone operating a vacation rental in Cook County outside of the Grand Marais city limits.

Bill Lane from the county’s land services department spoke to the board on Tuesday about changes being considered within an ordinance regarding vacation rentals in Cook County. The list of oversight and requirements to legally operate a vacation rental in the county, should the ordinance be approved, covers a variety of areas. A draft of the ordinance can be found by clicking here. In addition to being in compliance with the policies, there will also likely be a $200 annual fee to register a vacation rental in Cook County, according to County Administrator Jeff Cadwell.

The county is considering hiring an organization known as Host Compliance, a third-party monitoring system based on the West Coast used by many other cities and counties across the country, to help gather information on, and provide oversight for activity at vacation rentals in Cook County. Host Compliance will cover all areas of the county outside of the Grand Marais city limits, according to the land services department. The city has its own ordinance and policies for overseeing vacation rental properties.

Meanwhile, Cadwell said the purpose of an official ordinance regarding vacation rentals is focused on public health, tax compliance and licensing requirements. At this time, the ordinance would not be about regulation for how many vacation rental properties are able to operate legally in the county, Cadwell said. In the future, it is possible that topic could be addressed in the same or a similar ordinance, he added.

As the committee of the whole format does not entail voting or any action from the county board, the next step in implementing a county ordinance about vacation rentals would be a public hearing to discuss vacation rentals in Cook County. No date for that hearing is set, but a timeline about the future of this topic will be coming soon, according to Cadwell.