DULUTH – Residents who want to get out of town for Grandma's Marathon or other crowded weekends are now able to rent out their homes without applying for a limited pool of vacation rental permits.

The Duluth City Council unanimously approved a sweeping update to vacation rental rules on Monday night, opening the door to short-term rentals and an increase to the number of year-round permits.

The new rules follow years of angst among those looking to preserve their neighborhood character while others pressed the city to increase the cap to tap into the city's tourist income.

Short-term permits would be valid for 21 nights a year, and there is no limit to the number of homeowners who can receive them. They cannot be used more than seven days in a row.

"It adds to this new sharing economy that has been significantly growing not only in Duluth but worldwide," said Council Member Zack Filipovich. "The goal was to try to make a long-lasting solution and get some of these questions that have been lingering out there for a long time answered."

Full-time vacation rental permits were capped at 60 in most parts of the city — there is no limit for downtown and other business districts — but could now double so long as new housing is created first. The cap will increase by 10% of the number of new units created, up to 10 per year.

With the expansion comes enhanced "dense urban screen" or fencing rules and a maximum of four bedrooms for new rentals. The Planning Commission will also take over approving and denying vacation rental applications, which backers said could free up city staff to focus more on enforcement.

Brooks Johnson • 218-491-6496