Courtland Township to consider regulations for Airbnb, short term rentals

By BETH ALTENA

‘We’ve done nothing yet, we’ll be looking at it,” said Courtland Township Supervisor Mike Krieger about ordinances within the township to regulate short-term rentals. There will be a public hearing Tuesday, September 18 at 7 p.m. at Courtland Township Hall. According to an ordinance published in the Squire, the township is considering several regulations regarding the popular online booking short-term rental industry.

Board members will consider establishing  provisions required for bed and breakfast operations, allowing other short term rentals subject to licensing requirements, considering an ordinance to allow the continuation of existing short term rental requirements but expressly prohibiting future uses and an ordinance to expressly prohibit short term rentals.

Kreiger said the use of properties for business is currently prohibited by zoning and this relatively new use is prompting the action. He noted that Kent County recently established that short-term rentals are considered hotel use and has worked out a tax application agreement with Airbnb. Airbnb collects “hotel tax” through the owner and delivers the tax money to the county. He noted the agreement is only with Airbnb, not with other online platforms that include advertising or booking for short-term rentals such as Craig’s List.

The issue is some residents want to offer the service and others do not want it in their neighborhoods, he explained. He said the township has already held two meetings to hear opinions from the residents. The board is waiting for a recommendation from the planning commission before discussion and coming to a conclusion on how to regulate short-term rentals.

Other municipalities have either recently passed or are waiting to establish ordinances regarding Airbnb and short term or vacation rentals. A year ago residents in Plainfield Township complained about a short term rental property that was new to their neighborhood. They said the former residential property was being advertised for groups and was hosting bachelor parties where large groups of people were staying in the home, arriving with multiple cars. They said the groups were loud, staying up late and blocking the road and neighboring drives with their vehicles.

Cameron VanWyngarden, Plainfield Township Supervisor, said the board at the township passed a ban on short-term rentals and today are no longer allowed at all in the township. He said the “nuisance” rental owners, who were from out of state, were no longer operating the rental after threats of court action. Prior to passing the ordinance, the township had been powerless to take action because the use was not specifically forbidden. They had asked the out of state owner to be more considerate of the neighbors but could not enforce the request. The ordinance forbids shortterm rentals, but not longer term arrangements such as rental properties or even long term rental of rooms in your own home.

VanWyngarden said there haven’t been any other requests for operating Airbnb since the board voted to ban them. He noted that Plainfield Township isn’t much of a resort community. Even on the lakes, such as Dean Lake, so far the homes are usually owner occupied. During special occasssions, such as Art Prize, there may be a desire for additional accommodations in the area, but not generally.

“We are dealing with it on a complaint basis,” he said.

When asked if the township has the authority to ban this type of use in a residential property, VanWyngarden said yes, unless the state passes a superseding rule forbidding municipalities from forbidding the use. He said the state has been considering adopting such a provision for about the past year or so.

He said the issue is not a new one, but with the advent of the internet, it is easier today than before to get into the industry. “Vacation rentals have been around forever, it’s just the internet that has changed things.”

Trisha Anderson, Zoning Administrator for Cannon Township, said the township does not have an ordinance regulating short term rentals. She said the township is waiting to see what the state comes up with, since that rule will override local decisions. She said when people ask about whether they can have an Airbnb in the township, that’s what she tells them.

“People like utilizing Airbnbs, but they don’t like living next to them, When you buy a house you don’t expect to live next to one,” she stated.

She said she believes there are plenty of  Airbnbs on the township’s lakes, but there haven’t been “a ton” of complaints.

Bed and Breakfasts are not in the same category as there are already established rules on how to offer this service. Providers have to offer set services such as meals, rooms, dumpsters.

In the city of Rockford, Manager Thad Beard said the government is silent on Airbnb for the time being. He said he checked and there aren’t any he saw within city limits and there have been no complaints. Like Cannon Township, he said regulation by the state would overrule local ordinances.

“The question is, is it a benefit or a detriment?” He said the state is also looking at other online services, such as Uber, for regulation. He said he believed the state is looking to forbid local units of government from forbidding these types of online offered services.