There were reports of boisterous parties, parked cars jamming up neighborhood streets, loud music and indecent behavior.
Forget Las Vegas, or even downtown Minneapolis. With pandemic restrictions limiting large-scale events, folks have been flocking to suburban short-term home rentals for bachelor parties, reunions, staycations and weddings. The trend has some neighbors fuming and local officials rushing to clamp down, while property owners — including a state legislator — say they're doing their best.
In Roseville, residents have complained that some single-family home rentals, including two on Lake McCarrons, created a"nonstop party atmosphere" that at times spilled outside with drinking games, marijuana use, sexual activity and never-ending campfires.
The Ramsey County suburb is now poised to regulate and restrict short-term rentals — which are booked through websites like Airbnb and VRBO — saying the vacation destination atmosphere is not a good fit for otherwise quiet neighborhoods.
"I do feel restrictions are necessary, especially for those non-owner occupied houses," said Roseville Mayor Dan Roe. "One of the messages we were hearing from the neighbors is the uncertainty aspect of it. They just don't know what to expect."
Other suburban communities, as well as the city of Minneapolis, are also tightening the reins.
Prior Lake, which had allowed short-term rentals with a 2015 ordinance, last spring banned any new ones being rented for less than 60 days after neighbors complained about party houses. The city of Spring Park on Lake Minnetonka also voted last year to restrict short-term rentals to properties adjacent to commercial properties on main thoroughfares, said City Administrator Dan Tolsma.
Prior Lake Community Development Director Casey McCabe said a few of the nine registered short-term rentals in the city generated a wave of complaints.
"The complaints that came in were disturbing enough that our residents should not have to put up with this in their residential neighborhoods," McCabe said.
In February, the Roseville City Council will consider a license requirement for all short-term rentals, defined as rentals where customers stay for less than 30 days. The council is also considering requiring minimum stays ranging from seven to 14 days when the property owner doesn't live on the premises.
Frustrated Roseville neighbors have spent months making the case for more regulations, describing party behavior they say ruins their quality of life. The city received complaints of "noise, smoke, excessive parking, offensive language, drug use, nudity and other indecent conduct," according to Community Development Director Janice Gundlach.
Roseville resident Tracy Moore, who lives near Lake McCarrons, said at a council meeting last year that she and other neighbors felt uneasy as a group of revelers packed into one of the lakefront rental homes, tipping a sailboat.
"It was a large gathering in this COVID time. It didn't feel safe to people I know who were walking around the lake," Moore told the council. "There was a lot of buzz in the neighborhood because it was so loud and so intrusive."
Roseville resident Frank Hess said he's worried the proposed regulations don't go far enough, and he would prefer the city ban all short-term rentals of less than 30 days. He described "opportunists" who are buying up lakeshore property to turn into weekend rentals without consideration for the neighborhood.
Owners push back
But some owners, including Sen. John Marty, D-Roseville, and his wife, Connie, say they want to be good neighbors.
The couple purchased their two-bedroom lakefront property on Shady Beach Avenue on Lake McCarrons for $406,5000 in 2019 with the idea that they'd have it for retirement. In the meantime, renting it out would help cover the mortgage.
John Marty said they carefully screen guests and explicitly prohibit parties. They did allow a young family friend and his guests to use the property last summer, he said, which caused neighbors to complain.
"They did everything wrong," Marty said, noting the guests left a campfire burning.
He said that won't happen again, and that he and his wife have intentionally not taken part in the city discussion because they don't want to be viewed as unduly influencing city leaders.
"It's very important for cities to get this right," Marty said. "We figure we will live with whatever they come up with."
Eric Carrara, the owner of the other lakefront rental home on McCarrons Boulevard, declined to comment.
Roseville City Council Member Wayne Groff was the buyer's real estate agent for the property the Martys bought. Groff said he has no active business relationship with the Martys and supports more stringent regulations on short-term rentals, but not a total ban.
"The city has to do something, but you don't need to go to the extreme to solve a couple problems," Groff said.
Groff speculated that the pandemic, which shut down and limited traditional venues, has pushed parties to large suburban rental homes. He said he heard that a half dozen catering trucks showed up at one rental home.
"I do sympathize with the residents around there," Groff said. "When you have 20 extra cars and you have people there until 3 in the morning, that's a quality-of-life issue we have to address."
Pattie and Tim Garger, who rent out a seven-bedroom house on Gluek Avenue in Roseville through Airbnb, told the council last year that the pandemic did create problems, with people hosting parties at the property. They said they've increased screening and now make sure guests understand the rules — but also said neighbors have become intolerant and "discriminatory."
"The neighbors have started harassing our guests when they come over," Pattie Garger said. "They now are calling the police on everything that happens."
Finding a middle ground
While Roseville is trying to find a middle ground, other suburbs have simply said no to short-term rentals.
Edina has a decades-old ordinance banning short-term rentals, and there's been no interest on the City Council to roll that back, said Assistant City Planner Kris Aaker.
Eagan doesn't allow short-term rentals, either. The City Council formed a task force and spent months studying the issue in 2018 before deciding there wasn't a good way to allow them in neighborhoods, said Community Development Director Jill Hutmacher.
Reports that some communities are dealing with party houses was one of the scenarios that prompted Eagan leaders to keep a short-term rental ban, she said.
Still, there are cities that have found a way to both allow and regulate short-term rentals.
Stillwater expanded the number of short-term rentals allowed in its historic downtown business district, known for its antique and artisan shops.
Jenn Sundberg, who runs the short-term rental licensing program in Stillwater's planning department, said neighbors are told when a property is registered as a short-term rental. Owners are required to notify renters of local rules and noise ordinances.
"There really haven't been any overwhelming issues," Sundberg said. "I feel like the owners do take responsibility for their guests and they try to make it work for their neighbors. Also, Stillwater is just a destination for a less rowdy crowd."
Shannon Prather • 651-925-5037