September 7, 2022 at 8:51 p.m.
City administrative assistant maintains Sauk Lake vacation rental
The City of Sauk Centre has established a moratorium on new vacation rentals, waiting for Stearns County to prepare ordinances regarding these properties. Once those come down, the city plans to establish its own guidelines, especially focusing on an area’s noise, parking and rental density.
One way the city overlaps with Sauk Centre’s vacation rentals is through Nicki Vogt, administrative assistant for the City of Sauk Centre and owner of a vacation rental cabin at 749 Lake Shore Drive in town. While she is not part of the planning commission looking into future ordinances, she does provide feedback and recommendations based on her experiences, and she is not concerned with how county and city ordinances could affect the local vacation rentals.
“I think we self-regulate, honestly,” Vogt said. “If we don’t run a good operation, if we don’t keep it clean and safe, nobody’s going to book with us because our guests will rate us poorly, and people will see that. But, I do think county and city regulations are fine as well.”
For as long as Vogt remembers, it had been her dream to own a property on the shores of Sauk Lake, partly as a family getaway and partly as a vacation rental. When she travels, she also prefers staying in a house instead of a hotel, favoring the more home-like atmosphere.
Vogt purchased the Lake Shore Drive cabin from Alta Hanson in mid-2021, and she had it ready for renters in November. The cabin has seen consistent business ever since, with the summer being a particularly busy time of year.
“It would’ve been (full) 100% of the time if I’d allowed it to be that way, but again, it’s for my family as well,” Vogt said. “I made sure to block off weekends and weeks for my family to spend some time there too.”
The Vogt cabin is listed on the VRBO and Airbnb websites; those platforms get the most traffic, although Vogt has also gotten renter requests through Facebook and Instagram. She has had people come not just from Minnesota but also from all across the country, including Iowa, Michigan and Massachusetts, not to mention visitors from Canada and other countries.
“We had people this winter from Korea who had never been ice fishing,” Vogt said. “They wanted to experience that, so they came and got to experience it here.”
Vogt can only remember one party that rented her cabin as somewhere to stay while heading for a different destination. Otherwise, everyone else has come to Sauk Centre for the town itself; Vogt does not monitor how much her visitors do within the city, but she knows a lot of them choose her property because it is near Sauk Lake.
“What I’ve noticed with owning the vacation rental is that they bring in a completely separate group of people than what a hotel would bring,” Vogt said. “All the people we bring in are people who want to utilize the lake, where I don’t know if a lot of these people would have stayed in Sauk Centre if they couldn’t have brought their boat and docked it on the dock.”
Vogt knows of at least several other vacation rentals in the Lake Shore Drive area, but as far as she is aware, there have not been any issues with parking or business competition.
“It flows really well,” Vogt said. “The past week, we had a group of eight that stayed in ours, and the rest of their family stayed in the one down the road so they could all just spend the weekend together and be close, so everyone kind of works together.”
A lodging license is currently not required to operate a vacation rental, but it is likely that Stearns County’s upcoming legislation will change that. According to the Stearns County website, www.stearnscountymn.gov, the lodging license has an annual $290 base fee, an additional $7 charged per rental sleeping room, and the vacation rental will be inspected at a minimum of once per year.
On her part, Vogt believes healthy vacation rentals will bolster a healthy community, allowing visitors to experience the best of what Sauk Centre has to offer – without having to stay farther away in a hotel.
“We’re getting a lot of additional people coming to town, spending their dollars in Sauk Centre, who maybe would’ve otherwise gone elsewhere,” Vogt said. “I think it’s great for the community that we have these rentals on top of the hotels, bringing additional dollars to these businesses in town and supporting them.”