Village loosens its short-term rental rules

Marie Havenga • Apr 3, 2019 at 7:00 AM

Unlike neighboring communities who recently have been tightening the screws on short-term rental uses, the Village of Spring Lake is loosening its regulations.

In the past, short-term rentals were not allowed in the village. At all. In any zoning district.

Village officials were aware that some people were renting homes on a short-term basis, but the village chose not to police these violations unless there were complaints.

“It was not listed as a permitted use, so it had been prohibited that way,” explained village planner Jennifer Howland.

After a series of meetings with landlords and residents, the Village Council voted late last month to allow short-term rentals in residential districts. The vote was unanimous.

“In certain zoning districts, if you want a short-term rental, you have to apply for a special-use permit with the (village’s) Planning Commission,” Howland said. “... Most of the areas where there's a residential use, it's allowable.”

Which means short-term rentals are allowed in almost every area of the village, except in the eastern entryway district and office districts. The application fee is $425.

Howland said both the Planning Commission and the Village Council expressed interest in changing the village’s short-term rental rules.

“There was a group of well-spoken residents in the community that were supportive of it and we didn't really have any negative comments in the process,” she said. “It went very smoothly. The group of people most involved in the process were well organized and they came to the meetings together and had one or more spokespeople.”

According to village statute, a rental for less than 28 days in any calendar year is considered a short-term rental. The new ordinance has no minimum stay requirement, meaning someone could rent a home for just one night.

Howland, who is also the planner for the City of Grand Haven, said it appeared to be a more difficult process for Grand Haven, which recently restricted rights of property owners when it comes to short-term rentals.

“With the village, it didn't get much opposition, if any,” she said. “As long as it reflects the wishes of the community, then I'm happy.”

Having short-term rentals available could bring more visitors to the community.

“Of course, it's a great community,” Howland said of the village. “It's a very walkable area. I'm sure people would want to visit here. There are several property owners in town who are interested in renting out their homes to visitors. It's nice to have visitors. It could increase the vibrancy of the community in the summer months.”

Village President Mark Powers said overhauling short-term rental rules has been a long process.

“This is the one we've done to death,” he said. “It's gone through all the hoops and backflips we'd expect from the show. Everyone feels like they had some input. We will not be overly restrictive, nor are we going to turn into some sort of Fort Lauderdale in the spring. The process worked out quite well.”

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