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Afton clamps down on non-rental guest apartments

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Afton Planning Commission still has a little more work to do before the city can allow for non-rental guest apartments.

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Commissioners continued their discussion of allowing for non-rental guest apartments within the city during its March 4 meeting.

The topic of non-rental guest apartment, or "mother-in-law apartments" dates back several months and came out of discussions regarding the definitions and uses of principal and accessory structure.

Even though Afton's code currently allows for manufactured homes to be used as a temporary living unit for the care of infirmed family members and duplexes are allowed in the rural residential district on lots of 10 acres or more, neither adequately fits with the idea of "multi-generational or guest accommodations" as City Council and Planning Commission has discussed.

Whereas the manufactured home option limits the use only to infirm family members, the duplex options allows for the ability to have two separate living units, spate entrances and the ability to rent.

Last week's discussions mainly centered around how to prevent the apartment from becoming a rental unit.

Commissioner Dick Bend questioned why the terminology has changed from "mother-in law apartment" to "guest apartment."

"Mother-in-law is a member of the family," he said. "A guest is a completely different thing."

Former Planning Commission Member Tom Nolz, who was in the audience last Monday, said he recommends avoiding the word apartment altogether and referring to the living space as a "guest suite."

During the meeting, Planning Commission discussed with the city's building inspector, Duane Stensland, how to prevent the guest apartments from becoming separate rental units.

Stensland said the items making it a separate dwelling unit would be a firewall separating the two units, separate exits and separate utilities.

Commissioner Kitty Kilmer asked if language should be added stating anyone who stays in the guest apartments must be a family member or someone who cares for a family member in that residence.

Moorse said having a requirement such as that could be somewhat cumbersome given that the people who live in the main residence don't necessarily have to be related.

Afton's ordinances allow for up to four unrelated people to share a residence.

Ultimately Planning Commission decided that the language that needs to be included in an ordinance includes: the living space cannot be a rental unit, there cannot be a separate exit door and there cannot be separate utilities.

"It accommodates family members without making it so attractive that you'll have two families living in the same structure," Bend said.

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Amber Kispert-Smith
Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.
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