Courtland commission recommends banning or grandfathering in short-term rentals

By BETH ALTENA

The Courtland Township Planning Commission heard public comments on three ideas regarding regulation of short term rentals during a meeting held Tuesday, September 18 at the township hall on M-57. According to Supervisor Mike Krieger, an audience of about 70 people were there to make their opinions known.

“Most were private home owners who are not happy with short-term rentals,” he said.

The options were to allow short term rentals, which are typically advertised through online organizations such as Airbnb, to ban short term rentals or to allow existing short term rentals to remain in operation until the properties in such use change hands.

Krieger said the commission came to two recommendations for the regular board to consider: to either ban the rentals outright or to ban new short-term rentals and to allow existing rental units to continue operations until the property changes hands.

Complaints have come up in the township with people who object to former family residences being converted to short-term rentals. Neighbors who have complained to the township object to the noise and traffic on small lake lots where properties are in close proximity. Similar complaints were raised in other townships, such as Plainfield, where large parties, such as bachelor parties, were taking place in neighborhoods zoned residential and where commercial use is prohibited. Plainfield opted to ban the practice of short-term rentals outright.

In other areas, such as the city of Grand Rapids, short-term rentals are allowed when the owner is also occupying the property. In such cases, it is usually a room or level of the home being rented for a short-term use.

Kreiger said two ordinances are in place that do not allow short-term rentals. One is that no commercial activities are allowed in residential neighborhoods in Kent County. The other states no short-term rentals are allowed, and short-term is defined as less than 30 days.

Krieger said existing short-term rentals in the township have been alerted to the township’s rules and asked to cease advertising. He said in some cases the owners of the properties continue to advertise the short-term rental. The township sent out letters to the homeowners operating short-term rentals to let them know the practice isn’t allowed. They received feedback from the operators that there were already rental commitments in place.

Kreiger said both the Michigan house and the Senate have committees that are considering regulating short-term rentals, and they have been in process for over a year with no action taken so far. “It’s been in committee for over a year and hasn’t moved.”

The committees are considering action that would eliminate local controls of short-term rentals, similar to legislation that forbids municipalities from banning mining. The theory is that mining is necessary or desirable, for instance for building materials, but no one wants the mining to take place in their own neighborhood.

Kreiger said he has used Airbnb rentals himself on vacations and they are typically in more tourist dominated areas, such as the east coast. He said it would be undesirable for homeowners to have this type of use in their neighborhoods.

“These aren’t cottages anymore,” he said of the township’s lakefront homes. “People have converted them into principal residences.”

A newspaper article from Los Angeles said the municipalities there are also looking at the issue. People have complained that homes are more difficult to buy because short-term rental investors are buying them. Renters also complained  that they have been evicted from homes because short-term rentals pay better than long-term renters.

Krieger said the board does not have to take the recommendations put forth by the Planning Commission. He said he agrees with homeowners that having a short term rental property isn’t a good mix in neighborhoods like on the township’s lakes. “That would be bad anywhere.”

The Courtland Board of Trustees will consider the possible regulation options at their Wednesday, October 3 at 7 p.m.