Ontwa Township Board tables short term rental ordinance vote

ONTWA TOWNSHIP — A proposed plan to regulate properties rented out on sites like Airbnb and VRBO has been kicked back to the Ontwa Township Planning Commission.

An ordinance to place regulations and restrictions on short-term rentals was on the agenda for the Ontwa Township Board of Trustees Monday night. Ultimately, after nearly an hour of discussion, the board voted to send the ordinance back to the planning commission to revise and rework the ordinance.

Under current township ordinances, short-term rentals are not expressly permitted.

“We have no desire to shut [short-term rentals] down,” said Trustee Dawn Bolock. “We are just trying to help them do what they are doing in cooperation with our zoning. Without doing something, what they are doing isn’t allowed in residential areas.”

As presented Monday, the new short-term rental ordinance would have:

  • Required short-term rental properties to register annually with the township.
  • Created a maximum occupancy for 10 total occupants or two occupants per bedroom plus one additional occupant per finished story.
  • Required a minimum of seven rental nights and a maximum of 29 rental nights in a calendar year.
  • Required an owner or local agent to be available to accept phone calls at all times that a residence is rented.
  • Required owners to consent to inspections by the township upon request.
  • Required single-family dwellings used as short-term rentals to be insured as a commercially rented property with a liability policy of at least $1 million.
  • Required a minimum of two off-street parking spaces located on the subject property for up to six occupants, plus one space for every three occupants over six. According to the ordinance, parking on the grass, lawn areas or street would be prohibited.

In addition to the new regulations, the ordinance laid out penalties for violations and noncompliance:

  • The fee for the operation of an unregistered short-term rental is $750 for a first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent offense.
  • The fine for exceeding the maximum occupancy permitted for a short-term rental is $500 for a first offense and $1,500 for each subsequent violation.
  • Fines for other ordinance violations are $100 for a first offense, $500 for a second offense and $1,500 for each subsequent offense.
  • The ordinance also gives the township the right to revoke registration for any short-term rental, which is the site of two separate violations in a year. Upon revocation of registration, a dwelling cannot be re-registered as a short-term rental for one year and cannot be used for short-term rentals until re-registered.

“The main thing is we are trying to help, not hinder progress here,” Bolock said.

Though the board agreed there was a need for an ordinance, some trustees, in addition to members of the community, questioned aspects of the ordinance, such as the limit on occupants and the minimum/maximum rental days.

Ultimately, following discussion, a motion was passed five to two to postpone the vote until the township’s June meeting. A separate motion passed unanimously to send the ordinance back to the planning commission for further review.

“I just things need some more care,” said Trustee Jeff Kozinski, who made the initial motion to postpone the vote. “This is a big deal, and it deserves more time.”

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