Silver Creek Township to tackle short term rental property regulations

SILVER CREEK TOWNSHIP — With the rise of short term rental services like Airbnb, the landscape of the lodging industry has changed dramatically in recent years. Now, the Silver Creek Township Planning Commission is looking at regulating that industry with its borders.

Wednesday, the Silver Creek Township Planning Commission discussed short term rental properties, which encompass vacation rental properties advertised on websites such as Airbnb. The meeting was one of the first steps toward establishing an ordinance.

The topic of short term rental ordinances has been a controversial one across the state in recent years as those properties fall into a grey area between residential and commercial property.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court upheld a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that affirmed municipalities’ right to create and limit short term rental properties. Last year, a set of bills was introduced to the Michigan House of Representatives to clarify that any home rented out for more than 14 days in a calendar year would no longer be considered residential.

The state-wide and national conversation surrounding short term rentals is alive and well in the Silver Creek Township and Sister Lakes area. Featuring several lakes — and located just a few hours’ drive from major cities — the area is a popular tourist destination.

Township Building and Zoning Administrator Todd Herter said he is aware that many homeowners on the lakes use their homes as short term rentals. Still, they are technically not permitted as the area is a single-family zoning district. He added that there had been homes on the lakes that have been purchased for the sole purpose of renting them through services such as Airbnb.

“Nothing in our zoning ordinance permits this even though it goes on at the lakes all over the place,” Herter said. “The decision [by the planning commission] Wednesday was to, yes, allow short term rentals, but allow it as a special use.”

The commission voted to make short-term rentals a special land use to give greater enforcement powers and restrictions over a permitted land use.

Public comment and commission discussion on the matter was divided. Some argued against an ordinance and potential restrictions, while others pointed toward potential economic benefits to having short term rentals — and therefore more tourists.

“I feel this is something we don’t need to address. We don’t need to enforce any more rules than we have,” said planning commissioner David Grabemeyer, who said he uses short term rentals when he visits areas out of state. “I kind of look forward to having places like that [short term rentals] available.”

“What are you trying to solve? If its people being loud and doing things illegally, there are already regulations in place,” said resident Justin Sebastian, who said he does not rent his Silver Creek Township home, but would like the option. “Why would anything need to change? I’m saying we should have a permitted use.”

However, not everyone was in favor of short term rentals. Some lake residents expressed complaints around noise other disruptions caused by vacationers using short term rentals. Others added that, in the past, they could not reach the homeowners of short term rentals in the case of a conflict.

“I’ve lived here for almost 50 years. It was a quiet lake to begin with, but it has become almost unlivable at times,” said lake resident Bille Jean Stasiak. “Take that into consideration when you are talking about regulating some of this, please.”

Herter said he understood both sides of the issue, adding that there are pros and cons to short term rentals. However, he said that no matter how anyone feels on the topic, an ordinance must be made, though what precisely that ordinance will look like has yet to be seen.

“We have to either say we allow it or say we don’t allow it,” he said. “We don’t have a choice. If we do nothing, these vacation rentals are technically operating illegally. … If you want these people to be able to rent their homes out as vacation rentals, you have to make it a permitted use. You have to address it. Not addressing it doesn’t solve anything.”

Thursday morning, Herter said he did not know when a public hearing for the ordinance might be hosted or when it might be approved.

“There are going to be a lot more steps. This is not going to be a fast project,” he said. “We are in the beginning stages of this. This is all new territory for everybody.”

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 113,863 cases, 6,623 deaths

Cassopolis

Cass County to partake in annual Crop Hunger Walk

Brandywine Education

Performing Arts Workshops launches memorial fundraising campaign

News

Court of Appeals rules secretary Benson acted lawfully in mailing absentee voter ballot applications to registered voters

Dowagiac

SMC welcomes new dean of business, advanced technology

Dowagiac

Dowagiac Elks to host annual Guys & Dolls Golf Outing

Cass County

Michigan Works! closes central office, opens three new locations

Berrien County

MSP traffic stop data reveals need for deeper study

Berrien County

Ballard staff member tests positive for COVID-19

Cass County

Two arrested on meth charges in Pokagon Township

Berrien County

Lakeland Heart and Vascular earns testing reaccreditation by IAC

News

Court of Appeals: Absentee ballot mailers were lawfully distributed

Cassopolis

Our Father’s Family Keeper Ministries helps families in need during pandemic

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 113,863 cases, 6,623 deaths

Berrien County

PACE of Southwest Michigan celebrates National PACE Month, anniversary

News

City of Niles to begin hydrant flushing on Sept. 21

Giving

Niles Salvation Army hosting virtual fundraiser

Business

New furniture chain ready to serve Michiana

News

Niles City Council votes to combine police, fire chief positions

Berrien County

COVID-19 UPDATE: Michigan sees 113,183 cases, 6,612 deaths

Dowagiac

Dowagiac City Council authorizes construction of new DUS parking lot

Buchanan

Buchanan City Commission accepts treasurer’s resignation

News

No solutions reached for Niles Skate Park

Cass County

Local health official awarded for community work