Realtor association speaks out against SLT rental restrictions

Marie Havenga • Dec 12, 2016 at 8:00 AM

SPRING LAKE TWP. — Dale Zahn, CEO of the West Michigan Lakeshore Association of Realtors, said if the Spring Lake Township Board approves short-term rental restrictions Monday, it would cast “a dark cloud” over the region.

He said people come to this area to enjoy the lakes and the recreation, and they need places to stay.

The Township Board will vote during Monday night’s meeting, which begins at 7 p.m. meeting at Barber School, on whether or not to ratify a new ordinance that would limit short-term rentals to 14 days per year.

Zahn said approving such an ordinance would be an infringement on property rights, and although legal action is not his association's first choice, it has not been ruled out.

“We as a Realtor association believe in private property rights for everyone,” Zahn said. “We live in a vacationland area. When someone can only rent 14 days out of the year, that is basically a shut-down. That is not reasonable to us. We are opposing it.”

Zahn said some association members are circulating a petition, encouraging Township Board members to vote against the restrictions.

“We are not in opposition to reasonable restrictions (such as registering rental units),” Zahn said. “If people are occupying a rental and they are misbehaving, deal with them. Call the police. File a complaint. There are already laws on the book for those types of things. We don't see this as anything other than a few who have been very vocal.”

The issue started when neighbors of a Lovell Park area rental complained to the township about noise, garbage and balls rolling into their yards.

The owners of that home, Randy and Susan Reaume, said those neighbors never complained to them and never called the police.

Township Supervisor John Nash said he wishes those neighbors could have worked out the issues themselves without township involvement.

Nash, who said he will vote in favor of the new ordinance Monday night, said the township will not police rentals if it passes, but that internet rental sites have caused a huge upswing in neighborhood rentals, which would potentially cause problems.

“We're not going to get the dragnet out and start trying to catch people,” Nash said. “But we want to have a vehicle in place so when there is a problem we can deal with it. I'm not going to go out and try to catch people who are causing no problem. We're not going to aggressively try to find out everyone that rents, but we'd like people to register. We're going to have rules and we'd like them to be followed.”

Nash said his neighbor rents and he's never had any problems. Nash said besides Lovell Park, there have only been two other complaints about short-term rentals that he is aware of, one on North Shore Drive, which was resolved by the association and the other “somewhere on Spring Lake.”

Zahn said it's not fair to the majority of people in the township to enact new legislation when very few short-term rentals have encountered issues.

“We don't want any dark clouds hanging over the community,” Zahn said. “We're promoting the heck out of the area as a great place to come visit and play. How are they going to come if they can't find a rental?”

Zahn said he's hearing not only from some of his group's 1,200 members, but also from members of the public.

“They're talking about recalling public officials,” Zahn said. “They're talking about filing lawsuits.”

Zahn said his association is not considering a lawsuit “at this present time” if the ordinance passes.

“That's a board of directors decision,” he said. “All of those things are potentially ugly and we don't want ugly. We have to see what happens Monday night.”

Zahn said he had some encouraging email correspondence with Nash over the summer. He said his impression was Nash didn't think there were many problems with rentals and that more than 95 percent of them were not offending anyone.

“We never thought it would get this far,” Zahn said. “We have some clout and power behind us if we want to use it. I'm not looking to pull the trigger. I'm looking for them (the board) to come to their senses.”

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