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Another community ponders short-term rental restrictions

Marie Havenga • Dec 8, 2016 at 10:00 AM

FERRYSBURG — Like neighboring communities, Ferrysburg’s government is considering clamping down on short-term rentals.

City Council on Monday discussed limiting the number of days people can rent their homes and perhaps having a registration requirement.

Discussions are in their infancy, but already the subject brought multiple public comments — both for and against any proposed short-term rental restrictions.

Gene McQuaid, 19136 Maiden Lane, said his family members were assaulted by vacation renters on the beach last July.

“At that time, I decided never to let this happen to another family,” McQuaid said.

So, he began researching the issue.

“I learned in less than 10 keystrokes that I could put my property up for rent,” McQuaid said, speaking of websites such as VRBO and AirbNb. “Some of them are getting up to $10,000 a week during Coast Guard Festival weekend. There's a huge increase in crime as it relates to rentals. Unless we make some changes, it's only going to get worse.”

McQuaid said short-term rentals change the fabric of the community and the characteristics of a neighborhood.

“The State of Michigan Supreme Court ruled that they are commercial ventures,” he said. “Vote to ban short-term rentals.”

Paul Boyer said he's rented his property out for several years and never encountered any problems. He said he has strict rules in place, such as allowing no more people than there are beds to sleep.

“I rent it out each week in the summer,” Boyer said. “I'm unfamiliar with any problems. We live right next door. It's been a pretty positive thing for us. If there's a way to have reasonable rules and regulations, I would think that makes some sense.”

Others in favor of short-term rentals said there are already controversies on who belongs on the beach and that it's not just renters causing issues. Some beachfront property owners try to keep backlot owners out, even though they may have deeded access.

Tim Zaskiewicz said he's been renting out his North Shore Drive house for a decade.

“I've had zero problems with anybody,” he said. “I vet all my renters to see who they are.”

Maiden Lane resident Ivy Barnes said she has to keep her windows shut during the summer because of the noise from neighboring renters.

“Every summer we've had nothing but problems,” she said. “People are asking us to leave the beach. People are getting drunk. We've had dune grass catch on fire, assaults, fireworks, dogs not on leashes and going to the bathroom on the beach. They don't care about the people who live here. It's their time. It's their week. It's their party.”

Councilman Mike DeWitt suggested a 30-day minimum rental period, but Councilwoman Kathleen Kennedy said people who rented 30 days may try to sublet.

“Something has to be done,” DeWitt said. “Somebody's going to get hurt out there. Somebody's going to pull a gun. It's an issue we need to address and need to look at. We have to protect our citizens. I don't care about the people who are coming here to party.”

City Manager Craig Bessinger said there are 236 registered rental properties in the city, but registration doesn't differentiate between short- and long-term rentals. He also noted there could be many more that the city is unaware of, if landlords chose not to register and pay the $25 fee.

McQuaid suggested council duplicate Spring Lake Township's rental ordinance, expected to be voted on this coming Monday. That legislation limits short-term rentals to 14 days per year.

City Council directed Bessinger to speak with the city attorney to gather more information on the issue.

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