Housing Task Force

WILLMAR -- Exterior maintenance standards and exterior storage and off-street parking regulations for residential areas would be tightened if Housing Task Force recommendations are enacted by the Willmar City Council.

WILLMAR -- Exterior maintenance standards and exterior storage and off-street parking regulations for residential areas would be tightened if Housing Task Force recommendations are enacted by the Willmar City Council.

The council received the recommendations on Nov. 19 and asked the Community Development Committee to discuss the proposals.

Committee members agreed that tighter standards are necessary, and they directed city staff to prepare revised standards for the council to consider, according to Bruce Peterson, director of city planning and development services.

The task force was appointed by the council and spent about four months studying housing and zoning ordinances. The task force was appointed after citizens complained neighborhood conditions in some areas were deteriorating.

"The main intent of the task force was to maintain and preserve neighborhoods in a manner that a citizen would generally expect, and that a reasonable and prudent citizen would want to see and to live in,'' said John Bjornson, task force co-chair.


Bjornson said the ordinances were in pretty good shape. Some were a little out of date and some needed a little changing.

Also, there were a few practices that the city hadn't faced and the recommendations include some added regulations.

Violation of a city ordinance is a misdemeanor.

Bjornson said the task force supports education and expectations of citizens when they become homeowners or tenants, and education of landlords to be landlords.

Peterson also thinks education is important.

"Because of the changes that have occurred in our neighborhoods the last 10 or 15 years, we definitely have to get out there and educate people because we've got a lot of new residents that probably have not encountered this type of situation before and they're going to need to be educated through the process,'' he said.

Bjornson said the task force supports enforcement and follow-through of violations, especially those dealing with maintenance, noise, general behavior and conduct.

"We felt that it would be important to recommend that the council establish a staff position in whatever form the council thought this position would take, and the person would have the responsibility to implement and enforce the recommendations and the general codes,'' according to Bjornson.


One complaint addressed by the task force dealt with deteriorating exterior conditions.

The exterior maintenance ordinance, approved by the council on April 19, 2004, sets allowable levels of deterioration for paint, stucco, fences, and cement-work (also known as pointing) on chimneys and walls.

A house with more than 25 percent blistered paint is considered to be in violation of the present exterior maintenance ordinance. The task force is recommending the allowable level of blistered paint be changed to not more than 20 percent.

Similarly, allowable levels of deterioration would also change for stucco, from 25 percent to 20 percent; for fences, from 25 percent to 20 percent; and for pointing, from 25 percent to 10 percent.

Complaints about exterior vehicle storage and off-street parking were also addressed.

The task force recommends all vehicles stored outside be parked in a legal driveway or parking area. Automobiles and pickup trucks would not be allowed in rear yards.

In addition, the number of boats, motorcycles, trailers less than 24 feet long, snowmobiles and ATVs would be limited to seven units per residential property (with each licensed unit considered one unit).

The present ordinance does not state a number of allowable units, and allows storage of licensed vehicles in the rear yard.


"We've got some people that have a trailer with four snowmobiles on it and they've got a boat and trailer and they've got some four-wheelers and a couple of vehicles parked back there,'' he said.

Is that a problem with people?

"Absolutely, in certain neighborhoods more than others,'' he said.

The task force recommends off-street parking be allowed only in driveways that conform to current ordinance, or in driveways established prior to any ordinance changes.

Peterson said the committee directed city staff and the city attorney to prepare amendments to the municipal code dealing with complaints involving noise, animals, and snow and ice removal.

Changes to the exterior storage and off-street parking ordinances will be referred to the Planning Commission, since exterior storage and parking are zoning issues, Peterson said.

The committee did not agree on a task force recommendation requiring rental property owners to furnish garbage containers or to review interior standards for adequacy.

"Their response was the city needs to encourage more personal responsibility and accountability on the part of owners of rental property,'' Peterson said.


He said the task force discussed a personal responsibility campaign, including developing a brochure explaining the city's expectation of property owners.

"Once all these amendments are adopted, then we'll fine-tune the 'expectations of Willmar residents' brochure that we're working on and begin distributing that,'' he said.

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