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Community weighs pros, cons of short-term rentals

Alex Doty • Feb 22, 2017 at 8:00 AM

An over-flowing crowd forced the Tuesday night Grand Haven Planning Commission meeting to be moved to accommodate them for the public hearing regarding short-term rental regulations.

According to the Department of Public Safety, nearly 120 people were at City Hall, with 77 people seated and five standing in the council chambers, and the remainder standing in the lobby. The capacity limit of 88 people forced the meeting to be moved to the more spacious Community Center.

Residents voiced opinions weighing both sides of the topic — some arguing short-term rentals are a benefit to the community and the local economy, and are the right of property owners; while others argued that the increase in short-term rentals are having a detrimental affect on the community.

Jim Kalinosky, who operates several short-term rentals with his wife, said he’d like to see regulations remain status quo.

“I’d like you to consider enforcing what you have as guidelines already and allow people to operate a short-term rental if that’s what they choose to do with their property,” he said.

But Kalinosky noted that the city could do a better job enforcing its current rules.

“Make sure there is a way to monitor and govern so we don’t have to impose upon the full-time residents ... that have problems from time to time with short-term renters,” he said.

Resident Barb Rowe had a differing point of view, and said she wanted to see a cap on the number of short-term rentals. She said a short-term rental home is like a hotel in a residential district.

“If you’d like the Southside (neighborhood) to be a motel district, then please zone us a hotel district,” Rowe said. “Then we don’t have to have all these meetings and go on and on about doing what’s right and wrong.”

And like others, Rowe also noted that she wants to see the city enforce existing ordinances on the books regulating the rentals.

Nicole Vandenberg, a local real estate agent, spoke out against short-term rental limitations. She cited concerns about taking away personal property rights.

"Many people bought these homes for a $1 million thinking there would be this potential for income at a later time," she said. "To take that property right away from someone just because you don't want it, I don't think you have a right to do that.”

The proposed ordinance update

The proposal being under consideration by the Planning Commission come out of discussions from the city’s Short-term Rental Housing Committee and was drafted by the city's attorney.

Planning Commissioner Erin Von Tom said any decision made by the commission would just be a recommendation to City Council, which would approve the final language.

“It would be in their hands to make a decision," she said.

The draft ordinance would establish a means of handling nonconforming short-term rentals that were established prior to the new ordinance, as well as a series of special land use regulations that would determine if a short-term rental could be allowed.

The special use regulations include setting minimum lot size standards, rules for what’s allowed on properties, permitting requirements and more.

The draft ordinance would also set in place guidelines for the four affected zoning districts — Dune Residential, North Shore, Old Town and Southside.

"Each district has two different options that the Planning Commission could consider," Grand Haven Community Development Manager Jennifer Howland said.

The final recommendation from the Planning Commission will be one option per district.

Dune Residential District

Of the 270 dwelling units in this district, 61 are registered as short-term rentals. The first option — which requires a special use permit — would bring in the requirement that new short-term rental properties meet the minimum lot size of 10,500 square feet.

If approved, this would allow for the possibility of 56 additional units to become short-term rentals, bringing the district saturation level to 43 percent

The second option would allow no new short-term rentals in the district.

North Shore District

Of the 102 dwelling units in this district, 11 are registered short-term rentals.

Option 1 — which requires a special use permit — would allow as many as 86 additional dwelling units to become short-term rentals, bringing the district saturation level to 95 percent. The second option would allow no new short-term rentals.

Southside District

There are 365 dwelling units in this district, with 78 registered as short-term rentals.

Option 1 would allow short-term rentals only on key street segments as a special use — a move that would make nine additional dwelling units eligible to become short-term rentals, bringing the district saturation level to 24 percent. The second option would allow no new short-term rentals in the district.

Old Town District

There are 366 dwelling units in this district, with 52 being registered as short-term rentals.

Option 1 would allow short-term rentals on key streets as a special use, which would make 32 additional dwelling units eligible to become short-term rentals.

Option 2 would establish a cap on the number of short-term rentals in the district, a move that would result in spreading out the short-term rentals throughout the district instead of being located on key streets.

A variation of option 2, proposed by the Planning Commission on Tuesday night, would not cap the number of short-term rentals, but rather monitor it and review it over a period of time.

The commission made no decision on the ordinance Tuesday and will convene for a special meeting to be announced to make a recommendation to City Council.

Earlier this year, City Council set a date of April 17 for when it would like to see a draft amendment from the Planning Commission.

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