At the May 9, 2017 meeting of the Peninsula Township Board, the subject of short term rentals was discussed. The board discussed approving resolutions opposing House Bill 4503 of 2017 and Senate Bill 329 of 2017, which reads:
“To prohibit local governments from using zoning laws to prohibit homeowners from letting out their property for vacation or short-term rentals, which would apply to using services like Airbnb.”
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A motion was made by Trustee Warren Wahl and supported by Trustee Maura Sanders to oppose House Bill 4503 of 2017 and Senate Bill 329 of 2017. The motion was passed unanimously.
In essence, by opposing these bills, Peninsula Township would retain local control over how homes on the Old Mission Peninsula are rented.
Township Supervisor Rob Manigold noted that the township would be sending a letter to both representatives, asking for both bills to be opposed. While he said the township is looking for stability in residential areas – long term rentals as opposed to weekly rentals – the township is drawing a line on enforcement at the state level. They have, however, hired an employee who will work eight hours per week monitoring rentals in the township.
“When people buy a home, they’re looking for consistency, not a residence that’s changing week by week,” notes Manigold.
Township Trustee Isiah Wunsch said that during his time on the Planning Commission, discussion took place about how to handle rentals on the Peninsula. “I don’t think that Airbnb is going away,” he said. “I think it’s important for us to retain control locally,
though. I support opposing these bills, even if we choose to regulate differently.”
Sanders agreed. “I’d rather we keep the state out of it. I’d rather look at what people are interested in today, since a lot has changed in a few years. I’m a big fan of private property rights and would like to do some more investigation.”
Township Treasurer Brad Bickle said that by passing the resolutions opposing the bills, it tells the House and Senate to let the township govern as they see fit. But he would like public input on the matter. “I think we need to have an open dialogue with our residents about where their interests lie.”
Township Clerk Joanne Westphal questioned why this type of bill is being considered. “I find it interesting that the MTA (Michigan Townships Association) came out strongly against both of these bills,” she said. “They see issues beyond Airbnb rentals or short-term rentals. I think it’s appropriate to table it and get citizen input in a manner that allows people to express themselves and engage with their neighbors. When it comes to smaller tracts of land, especially along the shoreline, I could see how that would create issues.”
Township Planning Consultant Gordon Hayward said this issue is local control vs. state control, and Deputy Treasurer/Trustee Margaret Achorn agreed. “I think that we need to let the state know that we are in charge of Peninsula Township,” she said, adding that she’d like the township to hold a public hearing before further discussion takes place at the Planning Commission.
Township resident Louis Santucci said at the meeting that it’s important for the Township Board to not take a position on the bills, and if they do, it shouldn’t be specific and shouldn’t get into short-term rentals.
“You’re having all the citizens pushing the issue, and they want to have similar legislation in all of the state. The state’s going to be looking at a lot of things – including how Peninsula Township and Leelanau Township regulate wineries. For example, why
shouldn’t wineries be allowed to have weddings? If Grand Rapids can have Airbnb rentals, why can’t we? I’ve stayed at places where the owners have parties, too. I don’t think you need to take a position on this proposal. It hasn’t even gone to the committee yet. I don’t think there needs to be a rush.”
He added that he feels the township has set up a spy office, checking on Airbnb rentals. “It’s doing damage to the trust that is put in government officials,” he said, adding that he received a letter from the township which he felt was “sloppy” and would have preferred a nice letter inquiring whether he was renting out his home.
Are you for or against short-term rental opportunities such as Airbnb in Peninsula Township? Sound off in the comments section at the bottom of this post.
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