Michigan Municipal Leaders Urge Lawmakers to Support Compromise Short-Term Rental Legislation – VIDEO

Posted on June 14, 2021 by Dene Westbrook

The Michigan Municipal League is keeping the pressure on state legislators looking to prohibit local governments from regulating short-term rental issues by hosting a news conference (watch video here) on the issue Monday morning. We also continue to seek help from our League members by encouraging them to contact their lawmakers, write letters to their local newspapers, and pass resolutions through our resource page here.

The League’s CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin was joined by officials from Frankenmuth, Grand Rapids, and Marquette, Monday for a news conference on the short-term rental issue that was attended by at least 15 members of the media statewide. Joining Gilmartin at the news conference were Mark Washington, Grand Rapids City Manager and a member of the MML Board of Trustees; Bridget Smith, Frankenmuth City Manager; Derek Lemanski, short-term rental owner in Frankenmuth; and Jenn Hill, Marquette Mayor Pro Tem.

The news event (view related press release) focused on how there are alternatives to the short-term rental bills SB 446 and HB 4722. These two bills create a one-size-fits-all policy that only caters to short-term rental owners and big corporations looking to buy up multiple single family properties and turn them into mini hotels.

However, newly introduced legislation like HB 4985 by State Rep. John Damoose and others soon-to-be introduced make clear that short-term rentals are allowed in Michigan while also giving local communities the right to implement reasonable regulations that suit their unique housing. Go here to read the bill sponsored by Rep. Damoose and go here to read the press release about his bill.

The League continues to ask our members to contact their state Senators and Representatives today to oppose House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 446. Here are three ways you can help:

  1. Write letters to your local news papers on our Action Center here.
  2. Pass resolution in opposition to these bills and in support of alternative legislation. View sample resolutions approved by other communities here.
  3. Call your Legislators TODAY and tell them to oppose short-term rentals. Have them answer these questions:
    – Are you concerned about the skyrocketing cost of home purchasing in your community?
    – What is the wisdom in reducing housing supply for Michigan residents who live in our communities year-round and pay taxes year-round during the worst attainable housing crisis our state has ever seen?
    – What percentage of a neighborhood’s housing stock should be short term rentals? 50%? 75%? 100%?
    – What provisions in this bill keep a neighborhood from becoming 100% short term rentals?

During the press conference, local municipal leaders advocated for new legislation that balances the rights of short-term rental property owners with those of long-term neighborhood residents. State lawmakers have advanced legislation, Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722, that would overturn local regulations and give blanket approval for homeowners to convert their homes to short-term vacation rentals.

Newly introduced House Bill 4985 maintains locally created short-term rental laws while protecting the personal property rights of both the long-term resident and the short-term rental owner. Other compromise legislation is also in the early stages of being developed and is expected to be introduced in the coming days or weeks.

“Lawmakers have been rushing to pass legislation that would have overturned all of the work local leaders have done to carefully craft policies that balance the needs of long-term residents with those of vacationers and short-term rental owners,” said League CEO and Executive Director Dan Gilmartin. “For those lawmakers supporting bills that only protect short-term rental owners, we ask them to answer these questions: Are you concerned about the supply of affordable housing in your community? What percentage of a neighborhood’s housing stock should be short term rentals –  50 percent, 75 percent, 100 percent? And what are you doing to protect neighborhoods from being hollowed out?”

Grand Rapids City Manager and League Board Member Mark Washington stated that the current bills being promoted by real estate agents, SB 446 and HB 4722, would eliminate how communities address the concerns residents have raised over the growth of short-term rental properties.

“Short-term rentals are increasingly operating as commercial enterprises where homes in residential neighborhoods are being converted into year-round mini-hotels,” said Washington. “In addition to losing dwelling units, the quality of life can be impacted too with less parking, more traffic, more noise and nuisance complaints coming from these properties. The whole reason we have residential zoning is to help keep quiet residential neighborhoods from being overrun with disruptive commercial activity. Legislation like House Bill 4985 protects our need to create reasonable rules for how these short-term rental properties operate, and it needs to be given full consideration before any statewide law is passed governing short-term rentals.”

Proponents of Senate Bill 446 and House Bill 4722 argue the bills are intended to prevent local governments from banning short-term rentals in their entirety. However, the League has not found a single city in the state that has enacted such a ban.
Tourist destination communities are among those that have found it necessary to adopt local ordinances guiding how short-term rentals operate. Frankenmuth, for example, developed a local ordinance with input from business owners, residents and short-term rental owners.

“Frankenmuth is a tourist destination, so we are very supportive of short-term rentals,” said Frankenmuth City Manager Bridget Smith. “That’s why after taking months to gather input, we ended up with a local short-term rental law that allows an uncapped number of short-term rentals in our downtown while adopting reasonable limits of how many operate in residential neighborhoods. Any statewide law must allow communities like ours to address the unique circumstances a local community faces because our needs are not the same as everywhere else.”

Marquette is another popular destination community that adopted a local ordinance balancing the needs of permanent residents with those of tourists and short-term rental owners. Marquette Mayor Pro Tem Jenn Hill said a local short-term rental law was needed to ensure housing is available for the city’s workers.

“Housing is the number one issue in our community. People will accept a job at the university or hospital and then can’t move here because they can’t find a place to live. Taking away our ability to regulate the number of short-term rentals in our neighborhoods will make the housing crisis even worse,” said Hill. “We need legislation like House Bill 4985 to protect our ability to create local laws that meet our housing needs while making clear that short-term rentals are allowed in this state.”

Michigan Municipal League members and Michigan residents are encouraged to learn more about proposed short-term rental legislation by visiting the League’s Short-Term Rental Resource Page. When talking to your legislators, please urge them to vote down any legislation that diminishes how communities address short-term rentals based on their own local needs.

Here is some of the news coverage from today’s press conference as well as articles posted in recent days:
Short-Term Rental Legislation Brings Local Opposition – NBC 25, Flint/Saginaw/Bay City/Midland

Compromise Sought in Short-Term Rental Debate – MiBiz:

Communities Push Lawmakers to Rethink Proposed Short-Term Rental Rule – Detroit News

Grand Haven Pushes Back Against State Short-Term Rental Bills – WOOD TV, Grand Rapids

State Bills That Would Nix Local Control Over Short-Term Rentals Concerns Frankenmuth Leader – ABC 12

Editorial: Short-Term Rental Regulation is a Local Issue – Traverse City Record Eagle

Text from TC Record-Eagle Editorial, June 10, 2021: 

One size simply doesn’t fit all.

Yet, some Michigan lawmakers seem to think it should when we’re talking about the meteoric rise in short-term rental of homes in recent years popularized by online brokerages like Airbnb and VRBO.

Those lawmakers, including stte Rep. John Roth, R-Traverse City, and state Sen. Wayne Schmidt, R-Traverse City, signed onto a pair of bills meandering through the legislature in Lansing that would, to one extent or another, curb or ban local regulation of short-stay rental homes.

They, and others, argue pockets of tight regulation by some local governments infringes on homeowners’ rights. They contend wholesale bans and other restrictions on nightly or weekly home rentals (like the ban on them in Garfield Township) prevent lawful uses of our homes.

And private property rights are an issue we often would find common ground with the lawmakers. For example, the wholesale ban on short-term rentals in Garfield Township seems a bit harsh.

Still, we can imagine a plethora of ways the issue could be addressed at the local government level without blanket edicts issued by the state.

Constituents of local governments certainly could engage in the local electoral process if they felt a majority of their neighbors would support policy changes. Heck, the regulations in place in most municipalities in the Grand Traverse region have garnered laborious debate and lobbying from all sides before they were enacted.

The rules in East Bay Township are a perfect example — the kind of compromise rules generated by a thorough process that weighed both the concerns of full-time residents against non-resident owners who appreciate the income short-term renters provide in the lake-peppered vacation hotspot.

That’s the real conundrum here.

Zoning, planning and property use questions are generally accepted as best set by folks who live in the places they affect.

The fact is, short-term renting of homes is oftentimes a high-traffic, high-noise commercial use, and most residential areas have somewhat strict, localized regulations on uses that aren’t purely homeowner or long-term tenant occupation. Many of us have experienced or know someone who has experienced the nightmare of living adjacent to a vacation rental that generates a constant stream of poorly-behaved partiers.

Those are the times that would send even the most libertarian homeowners among us begging for some reasonable rules to govern those businesses.

Think about all the restrictions that preserve the relative peacefulness and character of most of our neighborhoods.

There are rules that prevent someone from opening a commercial manufacturing facility in their garage. There are rules that prohibit de-facto junkyards in neighborhoods. There are rules that govern noise. There are rules that dictate where and what structures homeowners can build on their property.

Local governments regulate all kinds of things related to the use of private property.

So why should we wrest control of short-term rental rules away from local governments?

Yes, local planning and zoning officials — especially in the Grand Traverse region where 25 percent of all of Michigan’s short-term rentals are located — face complex questions about this blurring of the line between homes and businesses.

It’s hard to imagine a state law would fit our communities better than carefully-crafted local policies.

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