NEW BUFFALO — The New Buffalo City Planning Commission approved sending recommendations related to the ongoing process of devising new short-term rental rules to the City Council during an April 20 special meeting.

Planning Commission Chairman Paul Billingslea said he would like have planners send a recommendation to the City Council that they approve the enforcement and funding side of a short-term short-term rental ordinance and lift the caps on short-term rentals in the R-2, R-3 and Commercial areas (anything that’s not zoned R-1) “and over the course of the next few weeks we will develop a plan for R-1 that tries to accommodate most people’s needs.”

He also recommended language in the proposed ordinance to amend the city code Section 11-1, Paragraph D, to substitute a number to be determined by the Planning Commission and the City Council for the draft proposal language of 65 units in regards to the total number of such short-term rental units in the R-1 zoning district.

Ultimately the Planning Commission approved a resolution incorporating those recommendations by a 5-0 vote.

Language in a draft of proposed amendments and changes to the zoning ordinance included in the packet for the April 20 meeting included the following language: The total number of such short-term rental units in the R-1 district shall not exceed 65.

During an April 13 special meeting on the same subject, planning commissioners heard approximately two hours of public comments on the subject before tabling making any recommendations on the zoning side of the short-term rental issue.

Public comments also took place during the April 19 session.

Bill Lenga said the rental of homes and cottages has been bringing people to the Harbor Country area “initially as renters, then as owners, and then as full-time residents” for more than a century.

He said he was grateful the Planning Commission slowed down the process “so that all affected property owners have the benefit of a fair, unbiased legal process.”

Ryan Fritz said he literally just bought land in New Buffalo and is looking to build a second home there.

“Whether or not the cap is 65 or 100, make decisions based on data, go for enforcement, because it’s a community we want to spend our free time in.”

Cynthia Marquard said she bought her first rental property in New Buffalo 29 years ago, has owned as many as six homes there, and currently is retired and owns two homes.

“The thought that suddenly my income from my rental home was going to be taken away from me, I cannot even hardly understand it. I have never had a noise complaint against I’ve owned.”

John Natsis thanked planners for “putting the brakes on for now” and said going forward people from the rental community can be a wealth of knowledge toward a solution.

Julie Ritchie said she has been renting “a very nice cottage” in New Buffalo to families for five years for retirement income she counts on.

Ritchie said she hopes she will be able to get a license if the city issues them again.

Also on April 19, planners approved a site plan amendment for Beer Church for a change that adds more than a 10-percent increase in the lower-level seating capacity and removes three parking spaces.

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