NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo City Council during a June 2 special meeting officially opposed a pair of bills in the Michigan Legislature (House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 446) that would affect the regulation of short-term rentals.
The bills, if passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor, would amend the Michigan Zoning Enabling Act to provide that the short- term rental a dwelling (30 days or less) is a permitted residential use of property that is not subject to a special use or conditional use permit or procedure and is not considered a commercial use of property.
Humphrey said the issue came up in May at a Berrien County Best Practices meeting, noting that St. Joseph Mayor Mike Carey has “led this effort for a long time” and the Bridgman City Council immediately got on board by opposing the bills.
On June 4 Humphrey sent the following list of “entities that have passed or will pass this week formal opposition for Berrien County” – City of St Joseph; City of Bridgman; New Buffalo Township; City of New Buffalo; Chikaming Township; Village of Three Oaks; Village of Stevensville; Hagar Township; Oronoko Township; and the Berrien County Board of Commissioners.
Humphrey said the communities are opposing bills that would be “completely detrimental to the future of their communities.”
He said New Buffalo already “suffers from a 25-percent full-time residency.”
“St. Joe and Bridgman have gone to extremes lengths to protect themselves from that sort of issue … they are definitely afraid of their residency being attacked.”
Humphrey said if the bills pass and become law, all of the money that the city has collected from permits to go toward enforcement and data collection will come back on the taxpayers and the number of rentals would increase so the enforcement would have to be greater.
“This would just be completely destructive to what we’re trying to get a handle on,” he said.
The June 2 vote on the following resolution (Number 21.15) was 4-0:
RESOLUTION OPPOSING HB 4722 AND SB 446 BECAUSE THEY DEPRIVE MICHIGAN RESIDENTS OF THE RIGHT TO REGULATE SHORT-TERM RENTALS WITHIN THEIR COMMUNITIES
WHEREAS, the Michigan Legislature is considering House Bill 4722, Senate Bill 446, and similar substitute bills known as H-1 and S-1 (the “Bills”), and
WHEREAS, if enacted into law, the Bills would require that short-term rentals be permitted uses in all residential zones and would deprive local residents of the right to determine for their own communities and neighborhoods, through their local legislative bodies, whether zoning regulations are desirable to regulate the locations in which short-term rentals are appropriate within their communities, or to individually review and consider proposed short-term rentals using the long-established procedures set forth under state law; and
WHEREAS, the City of New Buffalo is currently giving thoughtful consideration to the impact of transient guests in its residential neighborhoods and is considering the adoption of new zoning regulations to protect the quality of life of its residents and the year-round character of its neighborhoods; and
WHEREAS, the enactment of any of the Bills would take from the citizens of the City of New Buffalo local control of their community and would, in the judgment of the City Council, have a detrimental effect on our residents, our neighborhoods, and our community, and
WHEREAS, the City Council understands, respects, and supports the current right of all Michigan residents, through their local municipalities, to consider all aspects of short-term rentals and to exercise local control by considering how these uses fit in with the circumstances and goals of each individual community, whether regulation might be appropriate, and if so the specific details of such regulations.
Now, it is therefore resolved that:
1. The City Council of the City of New Buffalo respectfully urges our elected representatives, Senator Kim LaSata and Representative Brad Paquette oppose the passage of the Bills or any similar legislation; and
2. The City Clerk is authorized and directed to submit a copy of this resolution to the elected officials referenced above.
3. All prior resolutions, or parts thereof, are rescinded to the extent of any conflict with this resolution.
The short-erm rental issue was the main subject of the Public Comments portion the June 2 special meeting, which included the following:
Dan Skoczylas said he feels the City Council “has an extreme bias against second homeowners and the short-term rental community as a whole” despite his opinion that “tourism is in fact the lifeblood of this community and short-term rentals certainly are a huge contributing factor to that economy.”
He also referenced the use of a derogatory term for people from Illinois during a recent meeting. (Council member Mark Robertson later said no one on the City Council used the insulting term, noting it was mentioned during public comment).
John Natsis said he would like to know how long the council has has a discussion going about House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 446, and whether they fully understand it. He also said designating a certain zoned area off limits to renting could be seen as discriminating as certain homeowners and making their property less valuable.
Melissa Piorkowski said she and her husband have been looking for a home in New Buffalo since 2016 where they could host relatives from Chicago and the metro Detroit area while also renting it out to offset expenses. After purchasing a home from someone who was actively renting in an R-3 district and completing a renovation project, they applied for a permit and discovered that there was a moratorium in place. She asked when the moratorium would be lifted.
Bart Goldberg (President of Merchant Street Cottages Association) said he believes the requirement in an ordinance amendment passed on May 17 and taking effect June 24 requiring the name, date of birth, and information about automobiles for every occupant be provided in a short-term rental reservation summary filed with the city clerk “will create a mess.” “Virtually no one will be in compliance with this over-burdensome requirement, and our city’s guests will be insulted by this intrusion into their privacy.” He asked the council to stay enforcement of that part of the ordinance.
Goldberg also urged the City Council to “follow the collective wisdom of our state legislators” in regards to House Bill 4722 and Senate Bill 446, and later asked the council to not approved a resolution opposing the bills.
“It speaks volumes that both Republican and Democratic leadership support this legislation. They’ve pointed out that over 150 million tourists visit Michigan annually – that’s a third of the country. And these legislators are not about to kill the golden goose.”
Goldberg said he feels the bills are being opposed by the hotel industry.
John Grant said he was disappointed that the moratorium on issuing new short-term rental licenses was not lifted during the City Council’s May meeting.
Laura Murray said she was under the impression that the short-term rental license moratorium was going to be lifted or discussed during the May meeting. She also expressed dismay at “the level of restrictions and burdensome information that needs to be collected” in the new ordinance amendment. She said requiring the leasing agent to be within 20 miles of the property excludes anybody in the Chicago metro area from managing their own rental property.
Murray also warned of a class action lawsuit from a consortium if property owners seeking lost rental income if the moratorium is not lifted prior to the season. (Humphrey later said a lawsuit in South Haven that Murray referred to was settled out of court “and the facts are completely different than what’s going on here.”)
During the June 2 meeting the City Council also discussed ongoing negotiations with Victor Ciardelli related to the large, undeveloped property he owns in downtown New Buffalo.
City Manager Darwin Watson said Ciardelli was contacted several months ago by Interim City Manager Rich Killips to see about providing temporary solutions for some needs in that part of the city.
“When contacted the owner expressed that at this time he has no immediate plans to develop any of that property. He further expanded that now that the market has evolved enough to make development a possibility,” Watson said.
Watson said Ciardelli has indicated he is amenable to the idea of helping the city address parking and a lack of public open space issues in the North Whittaker Street area.
“Several possibilities were discussed. Culmination of discussion yielded an option that allows the city to lease multiple parcels for $5,000 until at a minimum the end of 2021.”
Watson said a map was provided (see accompanying illustration) and the proposed uses would involve changing the existing parking on East Mechanic Street to three-hour parking. He said approximately 45 new paid parking spaces would be created and there would be the “potential for vendor revenue from the other parcels.”
Watson said the recommendation is that he and the city attorney work with the property owner to come up with an agreement that will be brought back to the council on June 22, later adding that “all the hard numbers” including the costs will have to be in front of the council before a decision is made.
“If you don’t want to do it, we’re not obligated to do anything,” he added.
Humphrey said the proposal “seems like a result for us to get some income out of these properties and help with our parking issues overall,” he said, adding that maybe some additional food trucks could help break up some of the long waits at restaurants and generate revenues for the city.
At the beginning of the June 2 session, council member Mark Robertson said the Ciardelli property issue was added to the agenda too late and voted against approving agenda. During discussion on the issue he said “there are way too many variables here,” noting that the paid parking kiosks at the public beach were expensive.
“I’m all for the discussion,” he added.
Council member Brian Flanagan said he wants to see a development plan for the property and is worried “this is just a way for him to squeak out the door and do nothing down there.”
Humphrey said the Ciardelli property is massive (25 percent of the downtown), adding that a proposal to develop the site was rejected by the Planning Commission and City Council a decade ago, and would likely be rejected again.
“We’re going to have to get people interested in these properties, and investing in New Buffalo,” he said.
Ultimately the council agreed to have Watson continue to negotiate and bring a proposal to the next regular City Council meeting.
In another June 2 matter, the City Council agreed to purchase a BeachTech 2000 “beach rake” to be used by park staff for cleaning the public beach area.
Watson said Beach Tech has quoted the city a price of $59,500 for the beach cleaner and allotted a trade-in of $9,000 for the city’s current machine, resulting in a final price of $50,500.
Council member Roger Lijewski said during a recent demonstration the BeachTech 2000 appeared to work better than the city’s current equipment, which he said “got stuck on the beach.”
City Parks District Kristen D’Amico said the weight of the current beach rake (twice that of the new one) and the increasing softness of the sand have made cleaning the beach difficult to do. Both machines are pulled by a tractor.
In other June 2 business:
The City Council voted 4-0 to approve the New Buffalo Area Recreation Authority (NBARA) Articles of Incorporation which is being established to acquire, construct, operate, maintain and improve public swimming pools, public recreation centers, public auditoriums, and public parks (including Oselka Park) within the jurisdictional limits of its three participants – the City of New Buffalo, New Buffalo Township, and New Buffalo Area Schools. The Recreation Authority will be overseen by a seven-member board with two from each of the participating entities (none of them elected officials) and one at-large member.
Council members discussed how to handle having Outpost Sports get rented kayaks in the water this summer via an agreement with the city, ultimately agreeing to have have D’Amico, Watkins and Flanagan meet with business owner J.V. Peacock to seek a solution.