City Council OKs short-term rental changes

Alex Doty • Apr 25, 2017 at 8:00 AM

Grand Haven City Council is going ahead with adopting new short-term rental rules.

Mayor Geri McCaleb said Monday night’s decision comes after the city spent a lot of time with various boards and committees to develop the new regulations.

“There’s winners and there’s losers,” she said. “This is the nature of writing regulations and writing ordinances. You can’t make everybody happy with every regulation that you write.”

Added McCaleb: “It’s something we do our best to discuss, hear everybody, and our job is to make the best decision for the city of Grand Haven.”

Council voted unanimously to approve the rules; however, Councilman Josh Brugger said he would have voted against it, but he cited procedural confusion during the ordinance discussion as to why he voted “yes.”

“I was a bit lost on that and would not have voted in favor of what we just did,” he explained.

Brugger said he was not OK with the ordinance that was approved Monday night.

“What we’ve just done is called all short-term rentals in the Southside, Old Towne, Dune Residential and North Shore districts non-conforming,” he said. “A non-conforming property in Grand Haven is one that we want to go away. We don’t want them anymore.”

Added Brugger: “In total, we’ve just made 197 properties non-conforming in Grand Haven. Shame on me for not paying attention.”

Councilman Bob Monetza noted that he disagreed with the notion that the city has “rolled out the unwelcome mat to the existing ones.”

“We’ve done a great deal in this ordinance to treat short-term rentals quite a bit differently than other non-conforming uses,” Monetza said, noting there’s language in the ordinance regarding things like transfer and sale of property, making improvements, and what to do if the use is abandoned.

Monetza also noted that there was a great deal of compromise and work that went into the new rules to try and address the concerns of the community.

“We’ve gone at great lengths to compromise on a number of things,” he said.

Per City Council’s vote, new short-term rental rules update regulations for the North Shore, Dune Residential, Southside and Old Towne districts.

The approved rules 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.

City staff also proposed an alternative definition for "short-term rental" and "rental dwelling” to City Council; however, officials decided to go forward with the current definition of short-term rentals due to differing opinions on the proposal.

Some city residents still had mixed feelings about whether or not short-term rentals are a good thing.

Jennifer Holland, who owns and lives in a multi-unit residence, said she was concerned about the city’s decision impacting her retirement plans.

“For me, I drank the Kool-Aid,” Holland said. “I invested my money in Grand Haven.”

Holland said she bought the property and made investments into it with the plan to eventually convert long-term rental units into short-term rentals as tenants changed over in order to fund her retirement.

“Now, with this vote, I’ll have to change everything,” she said, noting that she’s concerned that Monday night’s decision would lower property values.

Others, however, wanted to see the short-term rentals limited.

Marc Sheehan, who lives in the city’s Southside district, said his neighbors will be thankful to City Council for putting the new rules in place. He noted the overwhelming numbers reported from questionnaires sent to city residents.

“You sent out questionnaires to neighborhoods and you received very strong feedback from all of the neighborhoods,” Sheehan said. “The residents who live full time in the Southside do not want more short-term rentals.”

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