City approves short-term rental ordinance

By Lonnie Allen for Petoskey News 

CHARLEVOIX — Short-term rental owners in Charlevoix will soon have to comply with new requirements. Charlevoix City Council members Monday unanimously approved the ordinance that would set requirements on the city’s short-term rental owners. Among the requirements would be registering the rental with the city. Registration shall be issued by calendar year. All short-term rental registrations shall expire at the end of the calendar year and must be renewed each year, according to the new ordinance.

“The primary difference with this ordinance requires the owners register their rental with the city,” said city manager Mark Heydlauff.

Other requirements include meeting all applicable residential building, health department, nuisance and safety codes, and the renters are to be made aware of the city noise and nuisance ordinance and fireworks ordinance.

“The dwelling unit will have to comply with other city codes, like the nuisance code and fireworks ordinance,” said Sarah Lucas, director of community development for Networks Northwest. “Of course, all structures and uses in the city have to be compliant with those codes — their inclusion in the short-term rental ordinance is primarily for reference.”

Short-term rental owners also will provide some basic information about the dwelling unit, such as contact information, property address, the number of bedroom units, and how many weeks the dwelling unit is available for short-term rentals each year, Lucas said.

Property owners also will have to sign a statement indicating that they’ll provide a copy of the city’s good visitor guide to the renters each time the unit is rented, Lucas said.

The ordinance also requires a “local agent” for renters must be available for each rental.

“The agent can be the property owner or a person that the property owner designates to manage the property, and their role is to respond to and address issues related to the unit if needed,” Lucas said. “Each rental unit will have to have that agent’s contact information posted within the rental for the renters’ reference.”

During Monday’s meeting, Lucas said the intent of the ordinance is to provide a management tool for the city.

“As short-term rentals grow in popularity, it’s important to understand their prevalence and impacts in Charlevoix, and the registration process will provide a baseline for that understanding,” Lucas said.

During the public hearing, residents on each side were able to give their reasons why they are for or against the ordinance.

Steve Lasky compared short-term rentals to motels and said neighbors and the city would not be OK if a small hotel was to be built in residential neighborhood.

“If I had five homes say on Hurlbut or Lincoln and I had them all in a row and they were large homes so I could let 10 people a night rent and sleep in those homes so I would be controlling the night for 50 people,” Lasky said. “If I were to come to city and say I would like to tear these five homes down and put a small motel. I want to put a tennis court and pool, but I am still only going to sleep 50 people. That certainly would have to be rejected because they would say we don’t want a hotel there. But really what’s the difference? If you are renting it for short-term transient use it is what it is. It might look like a house, but it doesn’t mean it is a house. I don’t look at these rental house as houses, they are mini-hotels.”

City council candidate and local Realtor Greg Bryan, who publicly supported the short-term rental ordinance, is now against it, he said.

“It is far more reaching than what I was led to believe and right now I am speaking on behalf of the ACK Board of Realtors, I am a Realtor and I have a bias and I am sworn to uphold peoples’ personal property rights, and on behalf of the board we find the proposed ordinance unacceptable in its current form and feel it adds an undue burden to personal property owners,” Bryan said.

Discussion continued and council members weighed their options as they continued to point out that the Planning Commission and subcommittee has worked on this for more than a year.

“The committee that drafted the ordinance very much wanted to avoid ‘overreach’ or burdensome requirements,” Lucas said. “The intent was that the ordinance could benefit all parties — property owners, visitors and the city — by providing information and assistance on the rights and responsibilities associated with short-term rentals.”

After discussion, amendments were offered by councilman Aaron Hagen to address fee and sign posting concerns from constituents.

“We should nix the fee,” Hagen said. “This is to gather information, and we should not burden homeowners and rentals with that.”

The amendments that were made eliminated any fees to register the rental and to clarify the agent contact information will be visible inside the rental, Lucas said.

“The City Council’s motion last night removed any fee from the registration process, so that won’t be a part of the ordinance,” Lucas said. “The ordinance will be published with changes and will take effect after 30 days. In the meantime, city staff will finalize the registration form and good visitor guidelines.”