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Holland struggles with how to regulate short-term rentals

By Sydney Smith/The Holland Sentinel • Dec 18, 2016 at 12:00 PM

Holland City Council members are still trying to figure out a place for short-term rentals, like AirBnB, in the city.

Although it adopted an ordinance outlining the permitted uses of short-term rentals, council had another discussion on the topic during its Dec. 14 study session. Councilman Jay Peters, after visiting some properties that are now restricted due to the ordinance, asked council to reconsider.

Peters visited five affected properties — the city had sent the owners of the homes cease-and-desist letters for renting short term.

"The five houses I've been in have a financial investment that is significant," he said. "The quality of the houses — they're the best houses on the block. When I think about our neighborhoods and the investment that has been made, I could not walk away from what I saw and say, 'That's bad for our neighborhood.'"

Council voted on short-term rentals in August, approving them for owner-occupied homes regardless of location. Previously, the city did not have a law to permit short-term rentals more than 20 days and considered units listed on sites like AirBnB to be in violation of the city's zoning laws.

AirBnB allows residents to list their homes and rooms for rent to travelers in a "shared economy," much like ride-share services like Uber and Lyft.

Senior City Planner Mark Vanderploeg laid out the process to council, if it chooses to amend the ordinance. Council could make a referral back to the city’s Planning Commission to study short-term rentals and come back with another recommendation.

During the study session, Peters and other council members suggested the possibility of having a limited number of short-term rentals annually.

Councilman David Hoekstra said by not allowing some of the rentals to exist, Holland could be missing an opportunity to provide a service. He also said council might be stereotyping these properties.

"There is value in thinking about a limit of how many we allow," he said. "We think there would be a detrimental impact on our neighborhood — we can imagine those things, but I haven't seen any data to support that."

To date, only two properties have applied and been approved through the new ordinance. Holland, like other American cities, is struggling with how short-term rentals can work while maintaining the quality of neighborhoods.

Councilman Todd Whiteman said he isn't ready to vote "yes," but is willing to reopen the conversation on an aspect of the proposal council chose to leave out — allowing short-term rentals in units rented out in commercial zones, such as apartments above businesses.

But not all council members are interested in reopening the discussion. Councilman Brian Burch, who was absent during council's original vote, is thinking about the possibility of the service going south.

"It's fine if we look at it through the prism of nice people renting to nice people until we aren't looking through that prism anymore," Burch said. "As someone who lives in this neighborhood, I've got new people coming in every weekend. I'm frankly uninterested in this.

Councilman Wayne Klomparens said he's been in favor of allowing short-term rentals from the beginning, but he wants to see strict controls on how many. Burch said council was looking for an arbitrary number.

Mayor Nancy DeBoer is concerned about issues with short-term rentals in other areas, like South Haven, where neighbors have taken issue with the size of rentals and some of the nuisances they bring, like excess noise and lack of parking.

"The people that have talked to me I know are very responsible people," she said. "I know they have a house they bought and put a lot of money into, and it raises the level of that area. But I also know nobody is living there as a resident."

Paul and Krissy DeKruyter, owners of P&K Family Properties LLC, submitted a written statement for council to consider. In it, they detail a thorough vetting process for those they rent to and how renting short term has led them to make improvements to their home.

They also recommended council have restrictions on the number of people who can stay in the rental at one time, restrict certain noisy activities, or how many rentals can be in the city or within a certain distance from another.

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