Who should regulate short-term rentals?

Jennifer Rigterink of the Michigan Municipal League, spoke out against legislation that would limit local government\'s ability to regulate short-term rentals.

CADILLAC — Short-term vacation rentals are in the spotlight once again.

The last time the state legislature looked at passing a law limiting local government’s ability to regulate short-term rentals like Airbnb or Vrbo, the city of Cadillac passed a resolution stating that the city wanted to keep that right instead of surrendering it to the state. The legislation didn’t pass then but now it’s back.

On Monday, the Michigan Municipal League, several Michigan cities and Housing North held a virtual media event and urged legislators to reject SB 446 and HB 4722.

It’s not that they’re opposed to short-term rentals, the opponents of the legislation said during Monday’s press conference. It’s that they want the power to regulate them.

“We are not opposed to short-term rentals. It’s an important tool for attracting and accommodating visitors, especially in our destination communities who highly rely on tourism for their local economy,‘ said Jennifer Rigterink, who is on Michigan Municipal League’s state and federal affairs team. “We’re opposed to a big government one-size-fits-all solution. Locals need to be able to respond to their citizens and to their businesses if an issue should arise.‘

The “if an issue should arise‘ is perhaps the most important part of MML’s position, at least as it pertains to Cadillac.

Though Cadillac has previously spoken out about wanting to keep the right to regulate short-term rentals, the city doesn’t have any ordinances specifically about the practice.

The rules were written long before Airbnb launched.

Rigterink, from the MML, said it makes sense for communities to hold off on creating new short-term rental-specific ordinances.

“Locals shouldn’t be regulating short-term vacation rentals if they’re not an issue in their community. There’s no reason to put regulations in place if they’re not having any trouble with it,‘ Rigterink said.

Cadillac’s city manager, Marcus Peccia, described the legislation as a potential “nuclear approach‘ that could create unfair situations across the state of Michigan.

“The state, if this is approved, will have the ability of dictating, essentially, issues that otherwise would be handled by your community under their zoning regulations, and it would challenge the entire establishment of local zoning,‘ Peccia said.

State Rep. Daire Rendon, R-Lake City, said she doesn’t intend to support the legislation but that other legislators from Northern Michigan have mixed feelings on the bills.

She’s been getting letters from constituents, particularly around Higgins and Houghton Lake, who say they retired to the area for the slower pace and solitude.

But out-of-state investors have rented out the houses for parties and events.

“Oftentimes these guests and parties spill over into the neighborhood, and the noise level and everything that goes with it is very offensive,‘ Rep. Rendon said. To cope, she said, local governments have turned to zoning, but HB4722 would limit local government’s ability to use zoning to rein in short-term rentals. “As the legislation stands today, I am not in favor of it. And I wouldn’t vote for it.‘

Rep. Michele Hoitenga, R-Manton, represents Cadillac. She said constituents are split and she has mixed feelings on the short-term rental legislation as introduced.

“It is not an easy vote but I lean toward protecting people’s private property rights that allow them to rent out their homes if they choose to. Short-term renters are not immune from law enforcement for noise and traffic complaints so there is a path for neighboring homeowners to protect their property rights as well,‘ Rep. Hoitenga said by text message.

Cadillac News