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City institutes short-term rental freeze

Alex Doty • Oct 6, 2016 at 10:00 AM

Grand Haven leaders hope a temporary pause in the issuance of short-term rental housing permits allows for some solutions to be found for their future in the city.

This past April, the city established a Short-Term Rental Housing Committee, which was tasked with reviewing current short-term rental regulations put in place in 2008, discussing how the program has affected zoning districts where the use is permitted, and making future policy recommendations to City Council, City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

On Monday night, City Council approved a four-month short-term rental application moratorium. The measure took effect immediately, but it exempts any purchase agreement going back 60 days.

“The (city) attorney is recommending it, and staff is recommending that we put this moratorium in place so that the committee can continue with a few more meetings before it goes to the Planning Commission,” McGinnis said. “Then, the Planning Commission can do their work, and City Council can get a complete recommendation in due course.”

The city’s zoning rules say short-term rentals are allowed in the following zoning districts: Dune Residential, North Shore, Southside, Old Town, Central Business and Waterfront 2. They’re also permitted in the planned development districts of Grand Landing, Harborfront Condos and 633 Elliott St.

City officials say they’ve seen growth in short-term rentals in the years since they were first allowed, especially in the Old Town and Southside districts.

“Those are the two neighborhoods that are traditional single-family residential but attractive enough to convert to short-term rentals,” McGinnis said. “The market has been driving that since we’ve made that permissible in those neighborhoods. They’ve doubled in ... eight years.” 

City officials say that approximately 14 percent of the dwelling units in the Old Town district this past June were short-term rentals, and more than 20 percent of the dwelling units in the Southside district were short-term rentals.

“If they doubled again in the next eight years, and then double again in the next eight years, that would be the whole neighborhood,” McGinnis said. “We’d have no single-family residential homes left in those neighborhoods (that are) owner occupied.”

City officials also pointed to short-term rental registrations increasing by 7.5 percent citywide since this past April.

“In one season, that’s a pretty big jump,” McGinnis noted.

Councilman Mike Fritz, who lives in the Southside district, said he’s seen firsthand the effect of what short-term rentals can do to a neighborhood. He said the area where he lives went from a family-friendly neighborhood to one devoid of families living on a permanent basis. Instead, the people are there for a short time for a weekend vacation, he said.

“You have renters all the time — different ones that you don’t know what your going to get,” Fritz said. “You get too many in a neighborhood and it destroys the nucleus of a neighborhood. You no longer have that camaraderie where you can sit down with people and talk to your neighbors, because they’re only there for a weekend.”

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