2017-12-07 / Views

Reader's Forum: Too much ‘big brother’ in rental regs

By Kimberly and Sheldon Bailiff

Like many, we reside in Metro Detroit but have been making pilgrimages to beloved Leelanau County all our lives. We own property in Suttons Bay Township that we rent via Visit Up North, until we can retire and move there permanently. We were among the 32 who applied for a Short Term Rental (STR) permit, but we definitely disagree with the new regulation. Here are the important points you might consider as you think about where you stand on the issue:

The new Zoning Ordinance is a violation of very basic Property Owner Rights. If I buy a property with the intention of renting it, how can the city (or any government entity) come along and legally tell us that we cannot use our property for the purpose for we bought it? This is potentially a massive lawsuit. As for the (non-refundable) $200 permit application fee: Taxation without representation. From here on, homeowners who wish to rent will be required to pay a non-refundable $200 a year and may or may not be granted a permit.

The most common complaints about Short Term Rentals - noise, vehicles/ parking and garbage cans – are covered under existing ordinances. They can be resolved by calling the police and/or Suttons Bay Township. Why would we create additional regulations when ordinances already exist and only need to be enforced? And why impose this new ordinance -- punishing everyone who rents their property and adding another layer of bureaucratic red tape -- for the sins of the few? Additionally, those who employ reputable property management companies (who work closely with city officials) already impose strict rules, among other precautions like limiting occupants and screening renters.

STR property owners improve property values. Most owners, ourselves included, invest (and reinvest!) a significant amount to update and make their properties appealing. This not only attracts renters, it also increases the property value of neighboring homes and improves environmental conditions. Examples we encountered ourselves: Washing machine drained directly into the lake; multiple dilapidated outbuildings and boat house; even a malfunctioning septic system within a few feet of the lake – all removed or updated/brought up to modern code.

The Leelanau County economy relies heavily on tourism and in fact, “sleeping accommodations are the largest area of need in Leelanau County,” according to Leelanau Peninsula Chamber of Commerce. Where do you prefer the tourists stay? What are the alternatives to STRs? Commercial development? Shoddily constructed high rise condos? Franchise hotel chains? How will those change the face of Leelanau County? STR owners help tourists enjoy the beauty, resources and culture of the area in a home setting, without cluttering it with other alternatives and all that come with them.

About the authors:

Kim and Sheldon Bailiff reside in Rochester with hopes of moving to Leelanau County in 10 years or so after all of their children have grown up. In the meantime, they have purchased and fixed up two properties in Suttons Bay Township they hope to rent.

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Ordinances covering STR

Ordinances covering STR complaints may exist, but the $200 fee shifts the cost of enforcement to those who buy properties to rent, such as yourselves. The Suttons Bay Ordinance does not tell anyone they can't rent their property. It seeks to preserve the "very basic Property Owner Right" to quiet enjoyment of one's property. STRs may increase (or decrease) property values, but often to the detriment of the neighborhood. The alternative to unregulated STRs is not hotel chains or high-rise condos, but rather, regulated STRs, which is what Suttons Bay has done, by permitting a full one-third of its housing stock to be short-term rented. When you move up here you will be warmly welcomed, and will come to understand the other side of this issue much better! -Doug Julien, AIA