Traverse City Delays Decision on Short Term Rentals

City Delays Decision On Short-Term Rentals

By Beth Milligan | June 19, 2018

Homeowners seeking more flexibility to rent out rooms on their properties on a short-term basis face another delay after Traverse City commissioners pushed back a decision on amending the city’s rental rules Monday. The tourist home discussion topped a busy agenda for commissioners, who also received an update on bacterial outbreaks at the city’s wastewater treatment plant and took the next step toward bonding a citywide sidewalk project and completion of the Boardman Lake Trail.

Short-Term Rentals
Eighteen months of discussion about amending the city’s tourist home policy will continue for at least several more weeks after city commissioners Monday declined to approve proposed changes to the city’s ordinance and delayed further discussion until a July 9 study session.

Commissioners were asked to consider changing the rules for homeowners in single-family residences who want to rent bedrooms on their property out to visitors through sites such as Airbnb and VRBO. The city’s current tourist home ordinance allows homeowners to obtain a license to rent out no more than three rooms in their homes for up to seven days at a time. The entire residence can’t be rented out, and residents must meet several requirements to obtain the licenses, including living on-site. Tourist homes also have to be more than 1,000 feet apart, limiting the number that can operate in the city.

Under the proposed new rules, the city would create two categories of tourist homes: high-intensity, in which up to three rooms could be rented by two people per room for a maximum two-week stay (totaling 85 or more guest nights per year), and low-intensity, in which up to two rooms could be rented by two people per room for a maximum two-week stay (totaling 84 or fewer guest nights per year). While high-intensity homes would still be required to be 1,000 feet apart, there would be no distance requirement for low-intensity homes. The rule changes also include a new application, complaint, and license revocation process; a move to require inspections every three years instead of annually; and changes such as allowing no basement rooms, employee stays, or receptions/private parties.

Though they spent several months hammering out the latest iteration of the rules before forwarding the proposal to city commissioners, planning commissioners were divided about the changes and acknowledged the new draft ordinance was unlikely to please everyone. A group of city residents had advocated for allowing homeowners to have unhosted rentals – something not permitted under the proposed new policy – and also voiced concerns the new rule changes were too complicated. Several city commissioners agreed with that assessment Monday and said the policy needed further review.

“I can’t support this ordinance as it is in this format,” said Commissioner Richard Lewis. “I think we’ve made it harder rather than simpler, and I don’t think it’s going to make the (short-term rental) issue go away.” Agreed Commissioner Amy Shamroe: “This isn’t meeting the needs for me right now to say let’s run with it. There are a lot of gaps and questions (with the draft changes).”

Commissioners agreed to discuss the proposal further at a July 9 study session and said they could form an ad hoc committee after that meeting to study the proposed changes in more depth.

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