Petition circulating against short-term rental changes

Marie Havenga • Dec 9, 2016 at 1:00 PM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — After moving to Nunica two years ago, Susan and Randy Reaume decided to rent out their 5,300-square-foot home on Spring Lake — weekly during the summer and monthly during the off-season.

After checking with Spring Lake Township officials to make sure they would be allowed to rent out their former residence, the Reaumes spent more than $40,000 to make it rent-ready. They say they enjoy a steady customer base and positive reviews on internet rental sites.

But that way of life could change Monday night when the Spring Lake Township Board considers enacting an ordinance that would limit short-term rentals in the most common residential districts to no more than 14 days per year.

The Reaumes are circulating a petition that they plan to turn in at the board’s 7 p.m. meeting at Barber School.

Related: Public weighs in on short-term rentals in Spring Lake Township

“We feel if this ordinance is adopted, the board will be (catering) to a small group of wealthy people,” Susan said. “There are a lot of rental owners. It's not just us. We have to stand up for ourselves because we are under attack.”

Although neighbors complained about their renters (noise, garbage, crowds) at a township-sponsored community forum on short-term rentals last month, the Reaumes said the neighbors have never complained to them about the property at 18190 Lovell Road.

“These neighbors have never called the police, never called (the management company) and never called me,” Susan said. “We've never had a complaint of noise or anything. These people just don't want it. They circulated a petition and it was all lies about our house. I feel like we're being bullied by this small group of wealthy people.”

The Reaumes said they post notices about the township noise and parking ordinances inside the rental home and have had no problems with renters breaking the rules. They do not rent for corporate or wedding parties, they said. They say most renters are grandparents planning a family reunion.

“These people just want to come here and enjoy their families, enjoy the water, the diving board and dock, go out for dinner and go to the beach,” Randy said.

Should the Township Board approve the restrictions, the Reaumes said they won't hesitate to launch a recall effort against board members who voted in favor of it.

“We have tossed that around,” Susan said. “It could very well be an option for us.”

The Reaumes said if short-term rentals are restricted, it could have a huge impact on the local economy because renters visit area restaurants, gas stations and stores.

“People are not going to have a place to stay,” Randy said. “If you're pulling together a family reunion and want to stay a week, are you going to rent four motel rooms, if they're even available, or are you going to rent a home on Spring Lake where you're going to have a lot of fun? If you can't find a home like ours to rent, you're not going to come.”

The Reaumes’ petition requests that the board not adopt the proposed ordinance. If it is adopted, the petition asks the board to at least consider modifications — such as allowing short-term rentals in all zoning districts instead of just R-1 and R-2 zones, and allowing up to 12 weeks of rental per year instead of the ordinance-stated two weeks.

Other suggestions include registering and licensing rental units with the township.

“If your rental becomes a problem, the township could shut it down,” Randy said. “The last thing we want are any problems.”

Spring Lake attorney Ed Grafton, who represents the Reaumes, said the township could also face some legal issues if the ordinance is adopted.

“Any ordinance, including this ordinance if it is passed, is always subject to constitutional challenges,” Grafton said.

Grafton said all ordinances need a rationale tied to health and safety concerns.

“The second way you can challenge is if it is selectively enforced,” he said. “I would say the township has problems both ways. They have a huge problem because there's going to be selective enforcement. They have no way of even-handedly enforcing the ordinance because they don't know where these rental units are. It will be like a Salem witch hunt.”

Grafton said he is advising his clients to follow the political path first should the restrictions be enacted.

“I'm a firm believer for political crimes (that) there should be political ramifications,” the attorney said. “Before spending money on a Circuit Court challenge, spend the money on a recall.”

Township Supervisor John Nash said he favors the proposed ordinance and will vote for it Monday night.

“I'm fully aware that both sides (of the issue) have hired attorneys,” Nash said. “The township isn't set up to resolve neighborhood issues. If the (Lovell Park residents and rental property owners) had been big enough boys to sit at a picnic table, go have a beer and talk this out — it probably would have been decided then.”

Nash said he's only aware of one other short-term rental complaint. Another was decided by the association on North Shore Drive.

“The thing that bothers me, whatever we do, somebody is going to be upset,” he said. “If they could have just resolved it, it would have been good. The solution is for people to treat each other with respect. But that didn't happen.”

Related Articles:

Ferrysburg ponders short-term rental restrictions

Grand Haven updates progress on short-term rental talks

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