State overturning short-term rental restrictions?

Alex Doty • Apr 29, 2017 at 10:00 AM

The City of Grand Haven and Spring Lake Township have recently spent time coming up with new rules to regulate short-term rentals in their communities, but legislation introduced in both the state House and Senate could reverse that work.

House Bill 4503 and Senate Bill 329 would amend the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act and define short-term rentals as a residential use of a property, not a commercial use. If it becomes law, it would mean short-term rentals would be permitted in all residential zones of a community.

Short-term rentals would also not be subject to special use permits or other permits or procedures different from other dwellings in the same zone.

City Manager Pat McGinnis said the situation is “a little bit unnerving,” and noted that he is concerned that the proposed state rules could negatively affect the quality of city neighborhoods and could create undesirable living situations.

“It’s an extreme overreach of the state Legislature,” he said. “It’s an assault on home rule authority.”

McGinnis said the best decisions about a community and its zoning rules are made by the people who live there, and added that one size doesn’t fit all for every community in the state.

“I think most of us are OK that we have zoning that preserves neighborhoods as neighborhoods,” he said.

McGinnis noted that both the House and Senate bill sponsors are in the real estate industry, something he said makes sense from their point of view, as more sales means more revenue.

The Michigan Municipal League has come out against the legislation, McGinnis said, noting that the city of Grand Haven has been used by the MML as an example of how to work to address short-term rentals in a community.

This past Monday night, Grand Haven City Council approved new rules that state that in the North Shore district, no new short-term rentals would be permitted; in the Dune Residential district, new short-term rentals would be permitted as a special use; in the Southside district, new short-term rentals would be permitted on Franklin Avenue, and west of Fifth Street as a special use; and in the Old Towne district, new short-term rentals would be allowed on key street segments as a special use.

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

“We’ve done an extremely thorough job over the last 12 months and spent thousands of hours looking at the issue,” McGinnis said.

Those on the other side of the coin say the new rules are needed to address the short-term rental crackdown that many communities across the state are taking.

“This is a major intrusion into the rights of private property owners,” said Dale Zahn, CEO of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors. “Enough is enough. What's next? How many fast-food restaurants? How many banks? In what locations?”

Zahn said the legislation is to “protect a fundamental right of private property ownership.”

“This has to be taken to the state level in an effort to stop the bleeding,” he said.

Zahn noted that West Michigan has long been a great place to call home and visit, and said people come for what we enjoy and take for granted.

“We are very concerned as to West Michigan becoming a less-than-welcoming area for visitors who enjoy the area and spend dollars at local businesses,” he said.

Zahn said there are already ordinances on the books in communities that, if properly enforced, would address issues like noise, trespassing, loitering or littering. He also said most of the short-term renters are “good, clean people,” and most owners are “good and decent” landlords who often take care of their property better than some owner-occupied homes.

Officials from the offices of state Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, and state Sen. Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, say the lawmakers haven’t yet had a chance to take a stance on the proposed legislation.

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