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Willmar seeks to opt out of temporary dwelling law

WILLMAR--The Willmar City Council will pursue opting out of the temporary family health care dwelling law approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May.

WILLMAR-The Willmar City Council will pursue opting out of the temporary family health care dwelling law approved by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Mark Dayton in May.

The law allows local governments to issue permits that allow certain types of temporary dwellings to be placed in the yard or driveway of a home and used as living spaces for a family member who needs assistance with a medical issue.

A motion approved Tuesday by the Willmar City Council sets a public hearing during the July 18 meeting to discuss opting out.

The law allows for municipalities to opt out of the law, as long as they pass an ordinance to do so by Sept. 1. If not, the law will go into effect and must be followed.

"It is kind of odd for that reason," said Bruce Peterson, Planning and Development Services director, when the issue was brought forward June 30 before the council's Community Development Committee.

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The committee members voted at that time to recommend the council opt out of the law. Councilwoman Audrey Nelsen said the League of Minnesota Cities, which worked with state lawmakers in the crafting of the law, also recommends cities opt out of the law.

"There are a lot of if, ands or buts. The Legislature didn't address all of it. We just need to make sure it is done right. We need to decide what we want," Nelsen said at the June 30 meeting.

The city would like the Willmar Planning Commission to take a look at the issue, and perhaps craft an ordinance regarding these temporary dwellings specifically for Willmar and its needs.

"There might be some reasonable reasons to look at accessory dwellings. We can do it the way we want to do it locally, not the way the state wants it done," Peterson said.

The state law does include certain requirements for a temporary dwelling: an R-15 rating for insulation, a size no larger than 300 gross square feet, that it not be attached to a permanent foundation and that it must provide access to water, sewer and electric utilities.

"I foresee some zoning issues," Peterson said.

The state law specifies the temporary dwellings are for an individual who is mentally or physically impaired and requires assistance with two or more instrumental activities of daily living. The need must be certified by a healthcare professional licensed to practice in Minnesota.

Under the state statute, the permit would be valid for six months and be renewed once for an additional six months. The municipality could also negotiate with the applicant for a longer period of time. There is a fee of up to $100 for the initial permit and up to $50 for the renewal.

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According to other news sources, multiple cities across the state already have chosen to opt out of the new law, including Burnsville, Lakeville, Aitkin and Cloquet.

There were Willmar staff concerns that even though the law was created to provide temporary transitional housing for seniors, the law could be used for other reasons and for a much longer period than it was originally created.

"This just gets us off the hook for the state mandate," Peterson said.

Shelby Lindrud is a reporter with the West Central Tribune of Willmar. Her focus areas are arts and entertainment, agriculture, features writing and the Kandiyohi County Board.

She can be reached via email slindrud@wctrib.com or direct 320-214-4373.


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