2017-06-22 / Opinion

Facts Supplied by Village Don’t Support Limits on Short-term Rentals


To the Editor:

The Village Council of Mackinaw City is considering a proposed ordinance that could have a severe impact on our economy and reduce our overnight options for vacationers. Last summer, the Village Council decided that an ordinance currently in place included a clause that requires owners of vacation homes offering to rent them via Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) to only rent long-term for 29 days or more.

The Council sent letters to 18 homeowners advising them to cease advertising short-term rentals. Two of the owners hired attorneys, who reviewed the ordinance and determined that there was no language that limited short-term rentals. As a result, the Village Council charged the Zoning Committee and the Council attorney to rewrite the ordinance to include specific language limiting any short-term property rentals.

As a vacation homeowner who rents vacation property on a short-term basis, I have been very concerned not only for my own loss of income, but also for the economic health of the community. I have done extensive research on the pros and cons of short-term rentals and have shared my results with the Village Council members.

I have attended most of the Village Council and Zoning Sub-Committee meetings. I was allowed to share the results of my research with the members.

To gather the background facts in the matter of short-term rentals, I submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for specific information about the Council’s decision-making process. The focus of the request is to gain information existing in the public records in the Village of Mackinaw City concerning the proposed ordinance. Of the 34 specific items requested, there was written information provided on three items, and none on the remaining 31 items.

Property owner and property manager Diane S. Moreno, other property owners, and I submitted documents to the Village Council showing that quite the contrary is true. Mackinaw City properties have been significantly improved when purchased, renovated, and offered for short-term rental. Many were previously rented for long-term and had become rundown, unkempt eyesores. New owners have invested more than $2 million in the improvement of local homes.

No documents were provided by the Village Council to show that there has been increased density, congestion, noise, and traffic levels, or a reduction in property values. No documents were provided to show that increasing the rentals to 29 days or more would preserve the attractiveness of residential neighborhoods, increase desirability, or provide more privacy for residential neighborhoods. No documents were provided about proposed inspections of properties, code enforcement, and the costs to the Village for enforcing compliance with the requirements proposed in the new ordinance.

The only complaint provided [by the Village] concerned a rental property complaint regarding a single property that is advertised as a vacation rental. There appears to be a conflict between neighbors. This conflict referred to one home that was involved in written complaints and police reports.

Given the number of vacation home rentals available to vacationers, the fact that in the Village files there was only one conflict that generated written documents by the Village, highlights that it is a unique event. In reviewing the documents provided by the Village to answer the FOIA document request, there is insufficient documentation to support the basic assumptions of the foundation of the proposed zoning ordinance. The facts simply do not provide a foundation to support the proposed ordinance.

Donald Fullenwider

Northville and Mackinaw City

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