Over three years ago, I almost wrote this letter. I wanted to call attention to the dawning of a new era in Chikaming Township, and encourage fellow citizens to participate in a monumental change.  Even as I chose to keep my contribution mostly constrained inside the avenues for participation in local government, I wondered if I should have told more people what I worried was to come.

I wasn’t alone in my concerns that the enormity of the new ordinances, which took effect a year ago, would have unintended consequences. I heard many voices wonder how a small township, with a small staff and a part-time zoning administrator could oversee such an expansive new level of local government overreach. 

It turns out the process now involves lengthy and expensive protocols to get interpretations of hundreds of pages. And, if you want to start a new business, you now have to prepare an expensive formal site plan review for a hearing with the Planning Commission, even if your use is permitted! I can testify this has a major impact on trying to sell your commercial property.

I’m not sure what happened with the conversation about imposing a local use tax for short-term vacation rentals. The conversation turned into increasing the cost of a Rental License to $200 a year instead of $25 every two years. At least the township realizes they must hire an outside contractor for the new level of oversight to look into your affairs. Get ready to turn in your leases for approval. Oh, and if you hadn’t heard, you have to pay by Feb. 1st every year now, so you have a few days. The new rental registration requirements distinguish between renting short-term for less than a month and long-term for a month or more. Terms missing from the conversation are temporary versus permanent housing and private versus public rentals. More discussion is needed.

On Jan 19th, the ZBA will meet to define the term “temporary” rental term, as it pertains to commercial lodging establishments. The local tourist area boasts many Resorts, Inns, Bed and Breakfasts, Glamping, and a Hotel. Many of these establishments have customarily rented long-term, for 30 nights or more, some even to the same guest for the entire summer or winter guests on retreat. Some regularly host outage workers for Cook Nuclear Plant, or serve as a landing spot for workers moving to the area while they search for scarce permanent rentals or a place for local families in between selling and buying a home.  This is an important service in support of local economy in an area with a shortage of affordable housing.

In my opinion, imposing a new limitation of short-term only rentals encourages travelers in a time of pandemic, rather than following the lead of Airbnb, which is encouraging longer term temporary transient guests.

To help local businesses, write a letter to buildingdept@chikamingtownship.org or share your three minute public comment on Jan 19th at 1pm on your device using the link: https://zoom.us/j/4147343272.

A Concerned Citizen,

Kristy Putnam

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