New short-term rental rules take effect Jan. 1

Marie Havenga • Dec 20, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Ferrysburg City Council approved a new short-term rental ordinance Monday night that will put tighter restrictions on vacation rentals.

Councilman Richard Carlson cast the lone dissenting vote, saying he thought the seven-day minimum rental is too restrictive. He preferred to see a three- or four-day minimum.

The new city ordinance, which will take effect Jan. 1, also regulates the number of occupants allowed, depending on the number of bedrooms and bedroom size. Each property owner must have a local agent listed for contact in case of problems. Owners will be required to register their rental homes by Jan. 2 of each year.

The registration fee also doubles from $25 to $50. Fines will increase for a first offense, from $50 to $100.

Campfires will be limited to closed containers and at least 20 feet away from dune grass. RVs and camping guests are not allowed in rental driveways or yards.

Ferrysburg resident Lisa Royce, a landlord who offers long-term rentals, said she also feels seven days is too restrictive, because many people get limited vacation time from work.

“I think you're discriminating against a lot of people that don't get a lot of vacation time,” she said. “I don't think the people up there or anybody should say how long people can go on vacation. If somebody wants to rent for three days, they should be able to rent for three days. I just have a problem with that part of it.”

Royce said she recently took a trip abroad, and most of her lodging was for two or three days at a time as she explored several countries.

Roger Jonas, chairman of the city’s Planning Commission who worked on the ordinance for more than a year, said the seven-day minimum “was kind of a compromise” because some residents had concerns about two- or three-day weekend rentals leading to a “party house” atmosphere.

Paul Boyer, who rents out a home on North Shore Drive, said he's OK with the seven-day rule because that length of time tends to attract families.

“I think the rules you've come up with seem reasonable,” he told city officials. “The kind of people we like to attract are families and individuals, and I think that's what you're going to get with seven days.”

Mayor Rebecca Hopp told council, in full disclosure, that she and her husband own rental property. They rent it out long term at this time, but she said that may change in the future, so she chose to abstain from Monday’s vote.

City Manager Craig Bessinger said he's impressed with the Planning Commission's work.

“I think the Planning Commission did a nice job of balancing the requirements for short-term and long-term rentals,” he said. “We'll get it in place and see how it works.”

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