New Brighton City Council approves temporary family health care dwellings

The New Brighton City Council passed an ordinance April 25 that would allow tiny, portable houses on residential properties in a 3-2 vote.

The ordinance is intended to provide access to temporary “drop homes” for people — generally older adults — with health care needs that require them to be close to a caregiver.

In 2016, the Minnesota Legislature passed a law allowing temporary dwelling units, with several conditions. To date, with the exception of Osseo, all metro cities have opted out of this legislation but New Brighton has since created its own ordinance to allow this use.

The Planning Commission originally considered the ordinance and recommended adoption with a minor language revisions. The purpose of New Brighton’s amendment is to require a license for the use of temporary family health care dwellings and to impose restrictions that go beyond those found in Minnesota Statues.

According to New Brighton Director of Community Assets and Development/Planning Director Janice Gundlach, the new amendment defines important terms, establishes performance standards for temporary family health care dwellings, creates an application process, allows the city to determine the appropriate application fee, establishes a six month right and one additional six month extension, creates a 12 month separation between multiple licenses, includes revocation rights for noncompliance, and requires applicants and occupants to enter into a Removal Agreement with a $1,000 financial guarantee.

“Multiple licenses on a single property would be allowed but there has to be a one year lapse between licenses,” said Gundlach. “The idea behind that is to make sure that it truly is a temporary family healthcare dwelling.”

Inspections by a Code Compliance Inspector, Building Official and Fire Marshal will also be required.

Drop homes, sometimes called granny pods, are trailers under 300 square feet that are billed as an affordable and temporary alternative to sending sick, injured or elderly family members to a nursing home.

According to the city’s ordinance, a temporary family health care dwelling must:

• Not be attached to a permanent foundation.

• Provide access to water and electric utilities either by connecting to the utilities that are serving the principal dwelling on the lot or by other comparable means.

• Have exterior materials that are compatible in composition, appearance, and durability to the exterior  materials used in standard residential construction and that also complement the existing principal structure’s exterior materials and colors.

• Have a minimum insulation rating of R-15.

• Be able to be installed, removed, and transported by a one-ton pickup truck.

• Be equipped with a backflow check valve.

Additionally, in order for a resident to qualify for a drop home the occupant must meet the definition of a mentally or physically impaired person, which is defined as someone who needs assistance with two or more instrumental activities of daily living.

Council comment

During the meeting, Councilmember Gina Bauman questioned how the temporary health care unit would be constructed and anchored.

Gundlach stated that the State would be issuing licenses to the manufacturers of these units and the State licenses would address the construction and manufacturing of the temporary health care units.

Councilmember Bauman also expressed concern with how these units would be regulated to ensure they remain safe.

“I don’t think that this is something that we as New Brighton need to address at this time,” said Bauman.

Councilmember Paul Jacobsen believed the City was ahead of the curve regarding this matter and feared there is not enough legislation in place to manage all safety concerns.

Councilmember Brian Strub was in favor of the ordinance as he felt a temporary dwelling was the most viable option for families in need of easy access to a temporary care space.

“This would allow them to move a single level structure on their property – assuming it meets the set backs and other requirements in here – and allow them not to go to hospice and to provide care at home,” said Strub.

Mayor Val Johnson also stated that she recently priced assisted living and other various health care options and came to the conclusion that a temporary unit may be the most affordable option for New Brighton residents.

Councilmember Jacobsen and Bauman opposed the passing the ordinance.

Contact Sam Lenhart at [email protected]