2017-12-07 / Local News

In S-B, regulation differs for short-term rentals and B-and-Bs

By Eric Carlson
Of The Enterprise staff

The Suttons Bay Township Planning Commission this week continued to consider rules for bed-and-breakfast lodgings contained in the township Zoning Ordinance.

Also discussed was a separate ordinance policing short-term-rentals that is scheduled to go into effect next year.

Short-term rentals usually involve residential properties that are not owner occupied year-round. The single-family homes are generally rented out as seasonal vacation properties for less than a month at a time.

Many of the rules for bed-and-breakfasts (B&B’s) are more stringent than rules for short-term rentals. But some rules are less stringent.

“You can host a wedding reception, for example, or other kinds of special events or gatherings at a B&B — but you can’t at a short-term rental,” said township staff planner Kathy Egan.

On the other hand, B&B’s are required to be served by well and septic systems that have passed muster with the Benzie-Leelanau District Health Department. Short-term rental properties do not.

The chairman of the Suttons Bay Township Planning Commission, Susan Odom, is the proprietor of the Hillside Homestead B&B. According to Egan, Odom noted that she was required to spend more than $10,000 to upgrade a well and septic system serving her property to meet Health Department regulations for B&B’s.

No such regulations exist for short term-rentals, even though many of the properties are on the waterfront and may contain more bedrooms, and accommodate more visitors, than a B&B.

Suttons Bay Township planners also discussed increasing the number of bedrooms that may be rented out in a B&B. Currently, a B&B may only have three bedrooms. However, the number of allowable bedrooms in a short-term rental is not specified in the township ordinance and could be unlimited.

Egan said planners are considering allowing up to eight bedrooms in B&B’s located in the township’s agriculture district, but keeping the limitation at three bedrooms in the township’s residential district.

The topic of rules for short-term rentals versus B&B’s will remain on the agenda of township Planning Commission meetings in the months ahead, Egan said. She added that well and septic requirements are not determined by township Planning Commissions, but by the Health Department.

Egan explained that it will be up to the Health Department to determine whether certain new requirements should be placed on the owners of short-term rentals for well and septic systems because townships do not regulate or inspect them.

The township Zoning Ordinance and other township ordinances only require that B&B owners provide a letter from the Health Department indicating that their well and septic systems are in good order. No such requirement exists for the owners of short-term rentals.

In other business at its regular monthly meeting Tuesday evening, planners:

• Reviewed draft zoning language designed to clarify requirements for private roads. Currently, the ordinance only addresses residential private roads. Planners asked township Zoning Administrator Steve Patmore to return to next month’s meeting with updated language that might add requirements for private roads serving commercial properties.

• Set meeting dates for 2018. Planners will generally continue to meet on the first Tuesday of each month except for January and July 2018 when they will meet on the second Tuesday to avoid conflicts with holidays. In addition, beginning next month, Suttons Bay Township Planning Commission meetings will start at 6 p.m. instead of 6:30 p.m.

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