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McKinley Hill on Center Road | Jane Boursaw Photo
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Since last year, Peninsula Township officials have been attempting to clamp down on township residents who have used Airbnb, VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner) and other sites to offer rooms in their houses to tourists visiting the area.

The current Peninsula Township Zoning Ordinance does not have a provision prohibiting Airbnbs, nor should it. When private property rights are at issue, governments should move carefully and only restrict such rights when there are real public health, safety or welfare problems. Perceived problems should not be used as grounds for such restrictions.

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Airbnb and similar websites provide an alternative to traditional types of housing offered on the Old Mission Peninsula. There are a few bed and breakfast establishments, notably the Grey Hare Inn, as well as rooms at Chateau Chantal and Chateau Grand Traverse, and the Old Mission Inn. There are no hotels, motels or camping grounds on the Peninsula. In total, there are probably less than 50 rooms available on the Peninsula.

If Peninsula Township officials allowed residents the ability to offer a room in their house, residents could earn extra income, as well as provide alternatives to visitors wishing to stay in our beautiful area. This would also offer residents the opportunity to put up their friends and family when they come to visit, especially in the busy summer season.

My wife and I have been offering one room in our house through Airbnb for the past three years. We have met wonderful people from all over the world, and I can attest to their unbound enthusiasm for our area. In addition, they are putting good tourist dollars into the local economy. I often send them to a Peninsula restaurant or winery, as well as the Peninsula Market and Old Mission General Store.

In addition, these businesses often employ young people, including students returning home from college. With the limited number of sleeping rooms on the Peninsula, why should Township officials want to close off these other avenues of accommodations?

Guests staying at these places have not caused any problems while in the area. They usually are on the go from morning to evening and come back for a short rest before going to dinner. I would venture to say that many people who live on the Old Mission Peninsula have stayed at an Airbnb and can attest that it is a good alternative. In a free market economy, folks should have a choice between as many alternatives as possible.

I know the Township is planning on holding a public hearing on the Airbnb concept, and I hope the community comes out in support of allowing Airbnbs and other platforms to operate here.

Finally, it has come to my attention that the Township has also hired a person whose main function is to spy on Township residents to see if they are listing their home on Airbnb or other platforms. There is something inherently wrong with having this office set up with taxpayers’ money. Whether you think Airbnbs are a good idea or not, you should be bothered by the idea that someone is paid to troll the Internet in hopes of finding someone who has an Airbnb listing, and then threatening them with civil and criminal penalties.

This is not in the best spirit of good government, and seems to be in direct opposition to a desire by the Township to hold a fair and open hearing on the Airbnb concept. Given the recent cyber-attacks on peoples’ computers, I would prefer that our township not use its resources to support a systematic peeking at one’s Internet postings.

This spying should be shut down and the Township should move forward in determining how best to offer the shared economy to its citizens. Grand Rapids, for one, has embraced Airbnbs and short term home stays, and there is no reason why we should not, too.

As the various bodies of our township move forward on a rewrite of the Zoning Ordinance, they should keep the above issues in mind and adopt an Airbnb friendly ordinance.

A NOTE FROM JANE: I started Old Mission Gazette in 2015 because I felt a calling to provide the Old Mission Peninsula community with local news. After decades of writing for newspapers like the New York Times and Los Angeles Times, and magazines like Family Circle and Ladies' Home Journal, I really just wanted to write about my own community where I grew up on a cherry farm and raised my own family. So of course, I started my own newspaper. Because the Gazette is mainly reader-supported, I hope you'll consider tossing a few bucks my way if I mention your event, your business, your organization or your news item, or if you simply love reading about what's happening on the Old Mission Peninsula. Check out the donation page here. Thank you so much for your support. -jb

Bay View Insurance of Traverse City Michigan


    • I assume that the township is again trying to cow people into submission by stating something that is not entirely accurate hoping the situation will go away.
      Again there is an ordinance against renting for less than 30 days in non owner occupied premises.There is a b and b ordinance which as I stated only applies to places serving breakfast. So there is nothing stopping someone from offering an airbnb situation. There are also ordinances dealing with rooming houses . So the airbnb concept being new is not specifically covered .Again the only state authority I can find that has ruled on the issue is the state tax tribunal. They did not deem it appropriate to classify an airbnb as a bed and breakfast. Like it or not that is the law of the state at least as far as the tax situation is concerned.

  1. We have an ordinance (and despite some people’s opinions, ordinances are an enforceable law) that prohibits daily rental in Peninsula Township. Law breaking is law breaking. Anyone renting all or part of their private property on a daily basis (less than monthly) without an approved Special Use Permit for a B&B or another special use permit is breaking the law. This isn’t a case of our Township officials overstepping. It is a case of them stepping up and enforcing our laws. Kudos to our elected officials for taking a stand against legislation at the State level taking away local control.

    • You’re right! There is already an ordinance in place. To allow AirB&B rentals opens the door to all short term rentals. A rental is a rental by any name. Either it needs to be enforced or taken off the books entirely.

      • It is not as bad as living across from a winery with hundreds of busses, weddings , and partiers and all night spraying. I think its funny how some businesses are okay to disrupt a neighborhood and some are not. Consistency would be nice.

      • let me set a few things straight as there seems to be a lack of knowledge on the ordinance with regard to bed and breakfasts and an airbnb.
        1. The ordinance with regard to bed and breakfasts states that it serves breakfast. It does not apply to airbnbs which do not serve breakfast.That is a fact. An ordinance can only be enforced as it reads not as you would like it to read.
        2. The state tax tribunal last year ruled that airbnbs are not bed and breakfasts as defined in the ordinance and further stated that an airbnb can s which ruled in their favor unilaterally pulled the homeowners residential exemption without discussing it with them, They were forced to seek legal counsel and went to the state tax tribunal which ruled in their favor. So if you think the township is just enforcing existing ordinances think again. In this case they acted in a manner that belies good government policy. This person ended up with his name on the delinquent tax rolls without even a chance to discuss the matter with the town official who took this action. Do you think that was fun to be branded a delinquent tax payer. I for one do not find that amusing at all. Let’s not mince words here. This was a blatant attempt to cow the homeowner into backing off his legal right to have an airbnb. This was not an exception there was at least one other person I’ve heard of where this enforcement action was taken. For those of you who are interested the same tribunal ruled that you must rent 51% of your house for 51% of the year in order for the personal residential exemption to be called into question.
        3. I often hear people throw out examples of where airbnb people abused their stay and had loud parties etc. Does this mean that people who rent for a month or township residents who live in their house do not have loud parties. Of course not. The solution to that is to call the police if it is too loud. In addition, in most cases airbnbs are hosted by the owner and if there is a loud party then you know to whom to lodge a complaint.
        4. The fact of the matter is that we are now living in the 21st century with many different modes of businesses being offered. Who hasn’t used amazon, netflix,uber, google maps etc etc. Each of these new platforms are coexisting with traditional modes of business and in some cases yes even supplanting them. Is the peninsula going to hold all this back. I hope not.
        Too often the complaints I hear about things on the peninsula sound to me like a desire to have an invisible gated community at the end of the peninsula. The sign would read new ideas are not welcome here. Let’s hope that isn’t the case.
        5. To the person who objected to the comparison to Grand Rapids, this was meant only to point out that other Michigan townships found a way to accommodate airbandbs without banning them.
        6. I think airbnbs are good for the peninsula and if you don’t want to share your house and hospitality with others that is your decision. I will not force you to accept guests and you should not force me to not offer my private home to guests as well.This is still a free country and private property rights should always be supreme and taken way only in the most limited and extreme circumstances.

    • I think what has given me a bad taste in my mouth about OM is the reaction over the school being closed. I worked as an SLP in both Sabin and OM elementary when it was being renovated and saw the have nots in Sabin getting nothing but being jammed into Blair and Interlochen. Saw it all.

    • Suzanne Hanninen Parker so you object to OM residents saving its school? Trying to keep their kids close to their homes? you’d rather see all rural schools be closed like Interlochen, etc., so kids have to spend hours on buses? Smh

    • Suzanne Hanninen Parker why was it bad form to ask the district line stop being so far into peninsula township that the heavily populated southern end of the township is districted to go to Eastern?

    • Suzanne Hanninen Parker I hear what you’re saying, and things just aren’t fair sometimes. It’s true that there are wealthy folks in the OMP community that help to keep the school open, build a new library, and step up when needed. Which I think is awesome, but I know that’s not always true for other communities. But there’s also a lot of people on the Peninsula that don’t have extra cash to help out, so we try to find other ways to contribute. I think it’s probably a microcosm of how life is around the planet – but not always equitable, in the big picture.

    • Suzanne Hanninen Parker many people that used to live on OM are families that have held the property for generations when during the logging days it used to be considered swamp land and the poor lived out that way. For many of those families it is all they can do to hang on to the family property.

    • Mary Swift omg wanted Eastern to close so those kids who could really walk to their school would have to take a bus to OMP. I live within walking distance to Eastern where my boys went to school. That didn’t make sense either.

    • Mary Swift as I understand (some of it) there were OMP people who wanted Eastern to close so those students would have to be bused to OMP. THAT is what I was objecting to. I feel your pain about OMP school being closed and your community is fortunate in that you are able to retain it as a charter(?) school. But the same argument applies in that to close a true neighborhood walkable school was unfair to suggest to the eastern families.

    • Suzanne Hanninen Parker but I thought you didn’t live on old mission? Anyway, at least your perspective on your boys walking to school isn’t getting you labeled just for wanting what’s best for your children.

    • I would have to say that TCAPS fell very short in their projections with the school renovation schedule. As soon as OMP was renovated the school age student population dropped off and they weren’t all going to the TAG program like one person suggested.

    • Suzanne Hanninen Parker not surprised. But anyway, the OMPS decision is over. I hope you can consider cutting OM a break for supporting their school (for so many reasons including the kids). And maybe applauding OM efforts to retain our community character regardless – it really is a great community who band together in countless ways. We help families who are down on their luck, we supports countless charities, we are truly neighbors which is no small feat in this divided world.

    • That is not accurate. Mission Peninsula regulations state that you can participate as B&B provided it is your primary residence.

  2. Really, the phrase “spy on” is pejorative. I believe that someone making sure ordinances are enforced is not a spy. Does a police officer stopping you from speeding spy on you? If you believe a law is wrong, petition for it to be changed. Do not pretend it does not exist.

  3. I like what this is saying. However, PLEASE STOP COMPARING US TO GRAND RAPIDS! TC is a rural city. The area surrounding it is rural. Also, until a real distinction/determination is made, I don’t think it’s prudent to have someone ‘searching for listings’.

  4. Sorry, it is spying when someone is trolling the internet without your permission in search of a possible – and I repeat, a possible – violation. I do not trust people who are trolling the internet to stop there. Given what the Russians are capable of doing and the recent virus that shut down the NHS in Great Britain, one can only wonder what could happen here. There are plenty of people who believe that if you are doing nothing wrong, why do people take the fifth etc etc. Well, there are very good reasons for this. To protect the innocent. So if I am parading in my house nude, does that mean that a peeping tom is within his rights to peep in my window? I don’t think so. You, of course, are entitled to your opinion, but if you stop to think about this, do you really believe government officials should be trolling the internet, no matter the reason?

  5. Everyone and anyone who lives out on the Peninsula can have a bed and breakfast out of there home legally. All you have to do is apply for it at the township. You will lose a portion of your homestead. But there are rules that are in place to make it fair to the people who are playing by the rules. The rules are also in place to protect the surrounding home owners. We HAVE had airbnbs in our area that HAVE had loud parties and housing more people than allowed by the B & B guidelines.

    • sorry I noticed that in my rush to respond to some of the posts I ran some sentences together which did not make sense. what I meant to say is

      that the tax tribunal ruled that an airbnb is not a bed and breakfast as defined in the ordinance and can also serve a continental breakfast. It ruled in favor of the taxpayer. And that the unilateral pulling of their personal residential exemption was incorrect.
      These people were forced to seek legal counsel and had to go to the state tax tribunal which ruled in their favor.
      By the way other townships tried the same trick and lost as well. They even appealed the rling and lost again. So folks if you like the township acting unilaterally pull your exemption and raise your taxes then so be it. I for one would think in this small township discussions should proceed this arbitrary and capricious action. Thank god this taxpayer did not back down and the state put to right this situation

  6. The recent newsletter is in error. I think the newsletter writer stated sort of a general feeling. But situations like one model of airbnb is legal in our township, county, and state in which a homeowner only rents a portion of their home while living there. In terms of short term rentals (whole house) our zoning regulation in Peninsula has a limit of 30 days. So you would have to rent out your entire house for 31 days or greater if you wanted to rent it. Hope this clarification helps. Curt

  7. Ag zoning it is a use by right for transient rentals in peninsula township. You can do this without any further permission from the township. So all the farm houses on the peninsula can do air b n b. Or Vrbo.

  8. Please, please read the ordinances. Airb&b rentals on the Peninsula can be legal if the homeowner follows the rules. And there are rules. If you want to rent out rooms in a home in which you live you need to find out what ordinances govern that and how you can abide by them.

    • yes it is true there is an ordinance which covers a bed and breakfast which is quite specific and states among other things that a bed and breakfast is an establishment which serves breakfast. This ordinance was written before the concept of airbnb existed. If you want to argue that this ordinance covers every conceivable home stay situation then I would argue if you have a guest visiting you in your home and they stay overnight, you are in violation. That of course is ridiculous but that is what people would argue when they want to apply a bed and breakfast ordinance to places where guests are not served breakfasts.
      I can think of hundreds of situations that one could argue “let’s establish an ordinance” does it make sense no. Should we have an ordinance for example that all homeowners on the peninsula should paint their houses purple? I know there are some people here who would support that but I think you get the point. I once heard someone remark on a house being built here how ugly it was. They probably would want an ordinance forbidding ugly houses (in their opinion of course)..So again do we need yet another ordinance to restrict home woners rights with what they do in their own house. I for one do not think so. Next it will be you can’t have more than1 non member of your family visit you because it brings traffic and they might make noise blah blah blah.

  9. Two factors that were not covered by commenters include HOA restrictions which prohibit short-term rentals and common, private waterfront property. HOA restrictions should supercede Township ordinances primarily due to the close proximity of homes in planned developments. A recent issue involved short-term renters’ use of private beachfront property, which places a burden on homeowners from a liability perspective. Hence, there are other conditions that are being overlooked in addition to the supposed laws on the Township”s books.

  10. Felicia, you are correct. In our township there are about 3 issues that need to be considered. The first is zoning. Next is PRE (principal residence exemption…. do you live there or is your house a rental), and if you live in a condo or an area that has HOA regulations. So here is the situation now in Peninsula Twp. If your house is in the residential zoning code (R) you cannot rent your whole house out for less than 30 days. That would be a zoning violation with fines potentially levied and also most likely a loss of PRE which would double your taxes. That’s a whole lot of hurt.

    Now for HOA rules. The township is not ever going to be involved in private association rules. That is strictly up to the HOA to enforce. That is strictly a private matter. We do not want our township government to get involved with and spend our tax dollars on private matters and maybe get involved in costly litigation. But an HOA certainly has this right.

    So what is legal now and what is not…… You can in any zoning area in Peninsula Twp rent out a portion of your house as long as you live there. It is legal from zoning as long as it is not a whole house rental. You can in an Ag (agricultural) zoning area rent out your entire home for less than 30 days. You can in any zone rent out your entire home for 31 days or more. Airbnb rental is not defined as a bed and breakfast. We have some of these on Peninsula Twp but a B and B has a very specific legal ( State of Michigan) definition which is identical per Michigan law that is what our Peninsula Twp zoning ordinance states. B and B’s can be designed specifically for this use vs a home that is designed for single family occupancy.

    Now for some opinion from me….. I do not feel that persons should be put out with short term rentals of whole houses in R zoning codes. Residents should not be put out by late night partying and illegal short term rentals. Airbnb rentals of partial house whereby the owners are present are not a problem. Both the guest and host are rated. Who wants a bad rating. Nobody. In Ag zones (larger plots) whole house rentals are allowed for less than 30 days. We have nuisance ordinances that can and have been enforced if a problem arises such as noise. Residents should not be subjected to loud parties by residents or renters for days on end. Ok so my sister got married on our front lawn a few years ago and we had a DJ and dancing till 10:45 pm. We were respectful of our neighbors and informed them of the wedding and invited them to the reception and some did come. But we shut it down by 11pm. So in my opinion this should be ok. But midnight 1am NO!!!!!

    So what is next. Well in Oct there will be an open meeting ( date not yet set or location) with residents and township officials to discuss short term rentals. We may not agree with each others position but what is most important is to respect us all. We can disagree with the opinions put forth but please respect all persons regardless of their opinions. We should be a perfect example of how to handle conflict. Please do not attack the person but you can and should offer how you may agree or disagree with the position presented. 4 years ago I attended a meeting a the civic center (250 people present) about the vasa trail and fat bikes. This meeting was going to be a disaster with factions split about 50/50 of whether to allow fat bikes on the ski trails A miracle happened. After everyone’s presentation there was clapping from everyone. Total respect even if you did not agree with the position. We can do that with this upcoming meeting. Let’s show our township how we can discuss a difficult subject. Thanks, Curt Peterson ( oh and we do not need a sheriff presence at this meeting).

  11. Well said Curt and Louis!

    There are already zoning ordinances in place that would cover any nuisance, such as noise or parking. Why would you want to create new rules?

    And, opening up your home to guests, whether they pay or not, has been going on for centuries. If I want to travel to Florida for 3 weeks and stay in my friend’s house while they stay in mine, it is my property right. Or, if I want to use a short term sharing platform’s excellent vetting system to find someone I can rent a room to in my home while I live there…perhaps a student wanting to study lake water fish for 3 weeks; than it is my right.

    And, Month to month rentals in any area is common standard practices across the country. If I get a work assignment in France, and find someone to rent my house to for 2 months, then I should be able to.

    If a homeowner loses their job, experiences an unexpected medical situation, death of family member, marital or abusive relationship, then opening up your home to rent, if necessary short term until an excellent long term tenant is found, should be the property owner’s right. What if a 70 year old homeowner has a 70 year old tree fall on his house and its not covered by insurance. Renting out his home short term could help.

    What are people afraid of? For short term renting, state rulings have found that because guests use the home while staying there, the same as residents, it is not a commercial activity in a residential area. Also, in this new economy it is wise to note that townships might try to ban/over regulate a homeowners use/rights; and an appeal board might even support the township; BUT the state again and again has over ruled and taken away the over zelous township ban/regulation. It is not an idle claim that a lot of town time and money will be wasted by creating regulations so restrictive they strangle owner’s rights; as such actions are usually overturned at the state level.

    The best approach is to come to the table in a listening mode. It can be, as Mr. Rogers stated- A Wonderful Day in the Neighborhood-, if you slow down to understand the complex issue and find a compromise.

  12. Communities all around the world are fighting the vacation rental takeover.

    Vacation rentals creating varying degrees of nuisance for the neighbors, replace housing with tourist accommodations, and throw local real estate markets into a tailspin because of the adverse effect on neighbors and the potential to double one’s profits by accommodating tourists instead of renting to local families.

    Homeowners’ rights should come before the rights of tourism businesses. “Technically legal” and “getting away with it” are poor ethical standards.

    • Hi James, I can tell you are passionate about this subject. Are you willing to attend the upcoming Peninsula Twp meeting (date and location to be announced) to civilly discuss the topic. We need people to listen (not attack the presenter) but potentially show how an idea may be good bad or whatever in respect for our community. What we need are facts and laws. This is so much about the laws and ordinances and do we want to change them. I get where you coming from but need to test you a bit on the “real estate market in a headspin”. Not sure what you mean here. Our real estate market is doing just fine. And in areas of a lot of short term rentals the real estate market is strong as well. Data showing where there are short term rentals show that property values are robust. And your comment about the renting to local families is not a problem on OMP. I agree it may be so in other USA communities. In fact where our daughter lives in Colorado I know this is a problem. So you are correct in certain localities. But not here in OMP. Please attend the upcoming meeting. We need your input because your ideas are valid. Regards, Curt Peterson


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