Comment period extended on County’s short term vacation home rental rules

The St. Louis County Planning Commission has extended the public comment period on proposed changes to the county’s zoning ordinance to allow for short term vacation home rentals.
Following a public hearing on Oct. 10, some new language was proposed regarding standards that allow short term rentals in areas zoned for residential use.
The new deadline to comment is Dec. 10.
The ordinance amendments with the proposed changes highlighted, is available online at
The proposed revisions to St. Louis County Zoning Ordinance 62 would allow for short term rental of properties through the issuance of permits.
The goal is to ensure minimal disruption to neighbors and the environment by setting requirements for septic, parking and posting of rules; while also requiring appropriate licensing to ensure a safe experience for guests.


Trump’s opening act

by Tom Coombe
When President Trump campaigned in Minneapolis earlier this month, there was a connection to Ely right on stage.
Joe Vene, a veteran, 1956 graduate of Ely High School and an accomplished vocalist, sang the national anthem prior to Trump’s Oct. 10 rally at Target Center.
About 20,000 people filled the arena and heard Vene’s rendition of the Star Spangled Banner, sung at the start of an event that culminated with Trump speaking for more than two hours on stage.
Long active in politics in the Bemidji area, where he now lives, Vene was invited by Jennifer Carnahan, who heads the state’s Republican Party.
“I’ve sung the national anthem in many quarters and many places,” Vene said in a telephone interview. “And last week I received a call if I would honor the office of President of the United States.”
It was an offer that Vene, a former Beltrami County Commissioner and active Republican, could not refuse.


Garbage and the gavel

by Tom Coombe
A seemingly routine action item became anything but Tuesday night at City Hall, with garbage pickup in Ely igniting some trash talk at the council table.
Following through on a decision made at a special meeting just seven days earlier, the council approved two garbage collection contracts with G Men Environmental Services, for both residential and commercial service.
But the vote came only after protests from council member Angela Campbell, and several sharp exchanges between Campbell and mayor Chuck Novak.
At one point, Novak disgustedly and forcefully slammed his gavel to curtail debate, when Campbell continued to s peak after a non-debatable motion was made to call for a vote.


Fewer kids home-schooled

by Tom Coombe
Once considered a big factor in a decline in student enrollment, home-schooling in Ely now isn’t as prevalent.
The latest numbers compiled by the Ely district show that only 17 children are being home-schooled within the district boundaries.
That’s down from 21 this time last fall and a better than 60 percent drop since 2009, when the home-school census showed a whopping 44 children receiving instruction at home in the district.
School board members have kept an eye on home-school census, which is conducted each fall and was released at Monday’s regular monthly meeting.
Ray Marsnik, the longtime chairman of the Ely board, made note of the decline and pointed back to a decade ago, when home-school numbers were much higher.
Off and on through the years, the district has reached out to home-school families in an effort to attract more children to the district and boost enrollment, which is linked to state funding.


No rush to move recycling center

by Tom Coombe
The relocation of Ely’s recycling center isn’t on hold, but it may not happen as quickly as first envisioned.
Plans to move the recycling area to the east end of town were announced last month, largely to accommodate the city’s trailhead project and other development on Ely’s west entrance.
That project has begun, but at least for now the recycling center has stayed put.
Mayor Chuck Novak said Tuesday that no move is imminent.
“The recycling center is going to stay in place right now until the time they need to tear up the tar,” said Novak.
While city officials initially talked of closing the current recycling center yet this fall, Novak said “it potentially could go to spring.”
“We don’t know what’s going to be on the construction schedule of the contractor at the trailhead site,” said Novak.


Trash contract extended

by Tom Coombe
Ely may yet give business owners a choice when it comes to garbage pickup, but not for at least another year.
That was the offshoot of action at a special council meeting Tuesday night, when members agreed to terms of a negotiated deal with the current garbage contractor - G Men Environmental Services.
Facing a Nov. 1 deadline, the council agreed on a 6-0 vote, with member Heidi Omerza absent, to extend the G Men’s residential contract for four years and commercial contract for one.
The “bifurcated contract,” appears to meet the concerns of several council members, who openly called for the city to seek bids from other vendors who may provide commercial garbage pickup.
“It gives us a year to delve into what we really want and what the consequences are,” said council member Al Forsman. “I think it gives us time to evaluate our stance.”


School surveys due Monday

by Tom Coombe
Time is running out to take part in a survey that could shape the size and scope of a proposed school facilities project.
A survey commissioned by the district is underway and area residents have until Monday, Oct. 14 to complete it.
Survey were mailed last month to homes across the district, and anyone who has misplaced theirs or did not receive one may contact the Ely district’s general office - at 365-6166 - to receive another.
The survey assembled by School Perceptions, a firm with a very strong track record in gaging community opinion on school referendums, also has safeguards to prevent participants from completing more than one.
The survey is part of an effort to gauge public opinion and sentiment before school board members settle on the size of a potential facilities project that almost certainly would require voter approval and property tax increases.


Fighting back against vaping

by Tom Coombe
The numbers are daunting and school officials including Ely High School Principal Megan Anderson say that vaping among teens is an “epidemic.”
Anderson provided firsthand evidence Monday during a public forum at the high school on the use of e-cigarettes, what’s commonly known as vaping.
The principal held a “vape” - the size of computer flash drive - that she found in a parking lot on campus while bringing her elementary-aged children to school.
“This is it,” Anderson told an audience of about 20 people in the high school media center. “This is the battle we have right now. These are pretty concealable, pretty small, pretty scary.”
Beyond the anecdotal tales this week were a plethora of numbers, all showing the use of e-cigarettes on the rise, and data noting the health risks associated with their use.


Who’ll pick up the trash? Divided Ely council rejects G Men renewal, will open up process

by Tom Coombe
By a narrow majority, Ely council members want to give consumers a choice when it comes to trash pickup in town.
They rejected, on a 4-3 vote, a proposal Tuesday to renew the contract held by the incumbent provider - G Men Environmental Services.
The city will instead develop licensing processes to allow for two service providers, a move that has some urgency given a contract with the G Men that expires at the end of the month.
Council members also requested that the G Men extend their current contract through June 30, 2020.
The council was clearly divided over the issue, which has festered for several months.
Council member Heidi Omerza blasted the decision and predicted it would result in higher rates paid by Ely residents, while some wondered if the move may at least temporarily force residents to seek other options - including hauling garbage to the landfill south of town.


Flooding Ely with service

by Tom Coombe
The books were put away, tests went on hold and Ely middle and high school students left their classrooms on Sept. 27.
Yet it was a learning experience nonetheless.
The school’s first-ever “Flood the Community” initiative got rave reviews, as about 300 students spread out across town to give back in a community service component of the high school’s Fall Homecoming Week.
For several hours, Ely students did everything from sweeping and pulling weeds to general clean up and washing cars as part of a coordinated effort to say “thank you” to the community at large.
The effort appeared to be well received on all fronts.
“It went really well,” said Megan Anderson, principal at Memorial High School. “Kids came back to school with big smiles on their faces, and I had several people text me that it was great to see the flood of red walking down the street together.”


Subscribe to RSS - News