HUDSON – The Town of Hudson and the County of St. Croix have filed a lawsuit against the owner of two short-term rental properties in Hudson.
Both entities claim that Brooke Fleetwood of Hudson operates the “Pink Castle” on Vine Street and the “Goth House” on Second Street without proper permission from the city or county.
Fleetwood believes the measure is retribution for a widely publicized ordeal when she painted her business across from City Hall pink, according to Fleetwood attorney Mike Patton.
The city’s main concern over the lack of licenses is safety, city administrator Aaron Reeves said.
“We want to make sure that all facilities available to the public, that is, the people who rent these facilities, are safe,” Reeves said.
The County of St. Croix requires a license for tourist rooming houses in the county. Tourist rooming houses are all places of accommodation other than hotels and motels that provide sleeping accommodations for tourists or passing travelers, as defined by Wisconsin state law.
The Town of Hudson requires a permit for all short-term rental accommodation, defined as residential accommodation offered for rent for a fee and for less than 30 consecutive days. Approval for short-term rental accommodation in the city requires a county tourist rooming house license.
According to the August 9 complaint, Fleetwood was operating, advertising and renting the properties without these licenses and in violation of city and county requirements.
The county first received a complaint in June 2018 that Fleetwood was operating without a license. In August of that year, the county determined after an inspection that the Pink Castle was not licensed as a tourist rooming house. The pool and hot tub were not built to code and an adequate exit was required on the third floor as it contained a bedroom. The Goth House swimming pool has also been declared not to be built to code.
Under the county ordinance, pools and hot tubs not built or modified to code cannot be made available to guests.
The main point of contention is the county’s claim that swimming pools are commercial as part of an AirBnB rental, Patton said.
The Town of Hudson’s Short-Term Rental Housing Ordinance was approved in June 2020. The complaint states that Fleetwood submitted incomplete applications for Pink Castle on October 26, 2020 and Goth House on April 29, 2021.
In social media posts, Fleetwood said she had attempted to apply for licenses since October 2020, when the law was passed, but never received approval or denial. Fleetwood said her license checks were cashed but she never heard anything more.
According to the complaint, city and county staff have contacted several times in recent years with orders to correct violations and recalls.
“Fleetwood has ignored city and county warrants regarding the licensing, use and advertising of the pool and hot tub to guests of the Pink Castle and Gothic House Pool, intentionally defying the law applicable state, county and local laws, ”the complaint states.
The resolution the city is looking for is to see properties properly licensed, Reeves said.
“We know they bring people in, and as long as they do it in a safe and respectful manner towards the neighbors, we are more than happy to have them,” he said.
Patton said they were working to see if Fleetwood could come into compliance if the requests were supported by law.
“One of the issues we tackle is what is going on with other AirBnBs? Are they required to respect the same rules regarding this commercial label? Patton said.
The city has had no other issues with enforcing licenses with other short-term rental properties in the area, and has been successful in the process with others in the city, Reeves said.
“We don’t have problems with short-term rentals, but we have requirements in our ordinance,” he said.