City Council gets 411 on proposed short-term rental rules

Alex Doty • Mar 24, 2017 at 11:00 AM

A large crowd packed council’s chambers at Grand Haven City Hall on Wednesday night to listen to the latest discussion on the future of short-term rentals in the city.

Despite the lack of a public comment period due to the work session format, Mayor Geri McCaleb assured attendees that their comments and concerns would be — and have been — heard.

“We have pages and pages of correspondence and minutes,” McCaleb said, referencing the public comments and public hearing before the Planning Commission, and letters and emails sent to city staff.

“We are collecting information of people’s comments and their position and all of that,” McCaleb said.

During Wednesday’s work session, Grand Haven Community Development Manager Jennifer Howland walked council through the draft ordinance recommended by the Planning Commission. The commission is recommending short-term rentals be allowed in the city’s Dune Residential, North Shore and Old Towne districts as special land uses, and that no new short-term rentals be allowed in the Southside district.

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.

During their review, members of City Council said they wanted to see more in the special land use regulations that would give city residents an opportunity to have more of a say in new short-term rental applications.

“The feedback I was getting was, ‘Would these regulations ever lead to a denial?’” Howland said.

As written, a short-term rental request would need to be granted in a district if it met all the special use requirements, regardless of public comment to the Planning Commission.

“You can have all of the public hearings you want, but you’d have to grant the permit,” City Manager Pat McGinnis said.

Councilman Mike Fritz said there needs to be more in the special land use section that would give the public more of a voice.

“You want the public to be involved,” he said. “We need to make sure they have a voice for how their neighborhood is going to be.”

City Council also made tweaks to recommendations regarding some of the zoning districts.


The Planning Commission voted 5-4 to recommend to council that no new short-term rentals be allowed here.

City Council discussed a change for this district that would limit new short-term rentals to key street segments — Franklin Avenue from Harbor Drive to Eighth Street; and Third, Fifth, Seventh and Eighth streets between Franklin and Clinton Street.

Council members also addressed the possibility of pulling the key street segments west by several blocks, but planning officials say they need to investigate the impact this would have on the Southside district.

Old Towne

Planners recommended by a 6-3 vote that short-term rentals be allowed in the Old Towne neighborhood as a special use; however, like the Southside district, council noted that Old Towne should only include new short-term rentals on key street segments.

According to Howland, the key street segments of Old Towne include Adams and Jackson streets, Fulton from First to Third, Columbus from Second to Third, Second from Columbus to Fulton, and Third from Columbus to Fulton.

North Shore

While the Planning Commission recommended to City Council by a 5-4 vote to allow short-term rentals here as a special land use, council members discussed prohibiting additional short-term rentals in this district.

Howland said she would look at the recommendations regarding both the special use regulations and the individual districts, and see how they could be implemented in the draft ordinance. An updated presentation will likely be given to City Council at its April 10 meeting. 

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