City leaders testify against short-term rental bill

Alexander Sinn • May 4, 2019 at 2:00 PM

Tri-Cities leaders visited Lansing on Wednesday to testify against a Michigan House bill that would prohibit municipalities from limiting short-term rentals.

Realtor organizations say House Bill 4046 would protect property owners’ rights, while local officials say their ability to zone these types of properties helps balance neighborhoods. Some local Realtors have taken issue with Grand Haven city officials’ opposition to the bill.

Grand Haven City Manager Pat McGinnis joined Community Development Director Jennifer Howland, City Councilman Bob Monetza, local Chamber of Commerce President Joy Gaasch, Southtown resident Sean O’Neill and Spring Lake Village Manager Christine Burns to formally oppose the bill sponsored by Rep. Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance.

The bill would prohibit local governments from requiring special use permits for short-term dwellings. Other regulations like noise and traffic could still be enforced.

The bill has support from Michigan Realtors, a lobby group that represents the industry.

Dale Zahn, president of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors, said the bill would help protect property owners’ “Bundle of Rights,” maintaining existing policies to regulate and police but preventing outright bans.

“This is not an issue of being advantageous to local Realtors,” he said. “In fact, for most, it won’t affect them one iota.”

McGinnis agreed the matter is a property rights issue. Property owners brought it to the attention of city leaders in the first place, he noted.

“Owners came to City Hall and asked us to enforce statutory authority,” McGinnis said.

The city has tracked the increase in short-term rentals since 2007. These uses grew in the city from 160 to 256 by 2015, with about 20 percent of them cropping up in neighborhoods where residents had asked the city to curb their expansion. A citywide survey in 2016 with 522 responses showed none of the neighborhoods wanted more short-term rentals, McGinnis explained.

In 2017, the city underwent zoning amendments to limit the spread of short-term rentals. They are currently permitted by special use in the Old Town, Southtown and Dune Residential districts. They don’t require special use permits in the downtown and planned development districts, while in the North Shore area they are not permitted.

In January, the Village of Spring Lake expanded short-term rentals to residential districts. 

McGinnis said local enforcement helps provide balance in neighborhoods to maintain residents’ expectations.

“There’s no interest in banning short-term rentals in Grand Haven,” he said. “We support and love and embrace short-term rentals. However, they don’t belong in every single neighborhood. We want to be able to strike that balance locally with valued input from stakeholders. We think that should be discussed locally, not in Lansing.”

Stacey Koziol, a real estate agent in Grand Haven and government affairs chairperson of the Lakeshore association, said she’s not in favor of a “free-for-all,” but wants to prevent local units from banning short-term rentals all together. Social media backlash from local Realtors, including Koziol, has led to city officials and Realtors hashing out the issue.

“That’s all we want out of it, is a happy medium,” Koziol said. “We don’t want it to be a battle between us. We all work together.”

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