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Short-term rental rule revisions head to City Council

Alex Doty • Mar 3, 2017 at 8:00 AM

The future of short-term rentals in Grand Haven is headed to the hands of City Council.

The Planning Commission on Thursday voted to recommend a variety of updates to the city’s short-term rental rules during a special meeting Thursday night at the Community Center, the second meeting on the topic in as many weeks.

“Dune Residential, North Shore and Old Towne are all special land uses anywhere,” Grand Haven Community Development Manager Jennifer Howland said of the commission’s recommendation. “The Southside is no new (short-term rentals).”

The draft ordinance also establishes a means of handling non-conforming short-term rentals that were established prior to the new ordinance, as well as a series of special land use regulations that would help the Planning Commission determine if a short-term rental could be allowed.

Grand Haven Draft Short-Term Rental Zoning Ordinance by Alex Doty on Scribd

While the proposed ordinance now goes on to City Council for consideration, planning commissioners were still divided over short-term rentals and their place in the community.

Commission Chairman Eric Brenberger said he weighed all options carefully about how it would impact the community before making his recommendations.

“Everyone says we’re a tourist community,” he said. “I believe we’re a community that welcomes tourists, but we have to cake care of our community first.”

Others on the commission said the issue is about the rights of property owners.

“It is their property and it’s in the Zoning Ordinance,” Commissioner Tim Deiters said.

Deiters added that it’s tough to reverse course once people have been allowed to do things with their property, and then they’re not. 

Here’s the breakdown of each of the districts and their recommendations to City Council:

Dune Residential District

The Planning Commission recommended to City Council by a 7-2 vote to allow short-term rentals here as a special land use.

The majority consensus of the commission on this district was also supported by the city planning department’s recommendation for the area. 

“In the Master Plan, it recognizes that it’s a resort area and there are a variety of lot sizes,” Howland said. “That’s what drew me to that conclusion.”

North Shore District

Commissioners recommended to City Council by a 5-4 vote to allow short-term rentals here as a special land use.

Like the Dune Residential district, the decision on the North Shore area was also the recommendation of city planning staff. Officials say the use pattern of the neighborhood is what led them to the recommendation.

“The character of the North Shore seems to be changing,” Howland said.

Howland noted that when sending out surveys to property owners, many have mailing addresses that are outside of the area.

“It’s an indication that the neighborhood may be changing from long-term residential to seasonal,” she said.

Southside District

Planners decided by a 5-4 vote to recommend to City Council that no new short-term rentals be allowed here.

That follows the recommendation made by the planning department staff.

“The Master Plan recognizes the Southside as a single-family neighborhood recognized for long-term occupancy,” Howland said.

Howland also noted that there was a lot of public comment that suggested that people didn’t want to see additional short-term rentals in the Southside district.

Old Town District

Planners recommended by a 6-3 vote that short-term rentals be allowed in the Old Town neighborhood as a special use.

Unlike the other recommendations to City Council, this one didn’t follow the planning staff’s recommendation.

Planning commissioners cited responses to a community survey and public comment indicating the desire to see additional short-term rentals in the neighborhood as reasons for allowing them throughout the district.

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