Silver Creek Township Planning Commission proposes short-term rental ordinance

DOWAGIAC — Short-term rentals were the hot topic at Wednesday’s Silver Creek Township Planning Commission meeting.

After months of planning and discussion, the commission introduced the first draft of its potential short-term rental ordinance during its monthly meeting.

The ordinance was proposed in August by Township Building and Zoning Administrator Todd Herter as a means to regulate property owners who rent out their homes through services such as Airbnb.

The commission will host a virtual public hearing at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 24 to discuss the first draft of its potential short-term rental ordinance. Following the hearing, the ordinance draft would go to the township board for approval. If approved, the ordinance would go into effect 30 days after adoption.

Township attorney Robert Thall informed both the commission and the public that without an ordinance, short-term rentals were not technically permitted within township limits, as the area is zoned as a single-family zoning district.

According to Thall, who helped develop the draft, the definition of a short-term rental in the township’s proposed ordinance is ‘at least three nights but not more than 27 days in a calendar year for the rental of a single-family dwelling for compensation.’

When asked why the number of days is capped at 27 and not 30 days, Thall said that decision had to do with the Fair Housing Act.

“The Fair Housing Act says if you rent at least 30 days at a time, you would be treated the same as a single-family renter or owner,” he said. “That’s why we stayed away from one month because at that point you can’t treat renters any different than the owner. Capping it at 27 days was to keep us out of trouble in that regard.”

Under the proposed ordinance, annual registration with the township would be required to provide short-term rentals. The name, address and phone number of the owner of the house must be listed in the application. Off-street parking must be provided by the owners of the rental property.

If the owner of the property does not live or stay within 45 miles of the property, the owner would need to name a local agent.

“This way, there will always be somebody you can call at this house,” Thall said. “Somebody should be able to get over there and see what is going on.”

Property owners offering short-term rentals would have to carry an insurance liability of at least $1 million as a commercially rented property. They would also have to provide copies of information to renters including rules and restrictions, trash pickup schedules, on-site parking limitations and more. Yelling, shouting and loud music would be prohibited from 10 p.m. to 7 a.m.

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