Chelsea Community Forum notes from Feb. 13, 2021

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Provided by the Chelsea Community Forum: 

February 13th Summary

Chelsea Community Forum Discussed Short-term Rentals and COVID-19 Vaccines

The Chelsea Community Forum met, via Zoom, Saturday, Feb. 13 at 9:00 AM with about 30 people participating.

Two topics were discussed:

  1. Short-term rentals (STRs) – if and how Air B and B (Airbnb), and Vacation Rentals by Owner (VRBO) should be regulated.
  2. COVID-19 vaccines – their production, distribution, efficacy and consequences

The following points were brought up regarding STRs: 

Lakeside cottage rentals have been a long-established practice in the Chelsea area and in Michigan. There are significant differences between

  1. weekend (more adverse impact on neighbors)
  2. month-long leases (less adverse impact on neighbors)
  3. Bed and Breakfast entities
  4. rentals by resident owners
  5. commercial/non-owner-occupied units

Distinctions were drawn between “traditional summer rentals,” bed-and-breakfast operations (depending on whether owners reside there, too), and internet-driven rental of homes where the owners may not be present or even residents of the area. There is a trend in vacation areas in which commercial enterprises purchase multiple residential housing units and use these units as short-term rentals using the Airbnb and VRBO platforms for marketing.

A Freedom Township resident mentioned that they have been discussing these issues for several years. They have utilized an approach based upon the Michigan Supreme Court ruling in Susan Reaume vs. Spring Lake Township (May 2019). This ruling looked at the location of the Airbnb in Spring Lake and determined that the entity in question must be regulated as a motel as it was located in a low-density residential district; additionally, Freedom Township is reviewing zoning laws to regulate the Airbnb dwellings, because regulating the location of the Airbnbs may not be optimal. It was brought up that the facility in Spring Lake was quite large. Another participant brought forward the concept of regulating the effects of the Airbnb and not the activity associated with the establishment of the facility. Any number of regulations can be locally enacted, but difficulties arise with consistent enforcement. When police services are unavailable or dispatched to attend to more pressing priorities, the regulations become unenforceable. A resident of Sylvan Township offered the idea of developing a fee structure that accurately reflects the cost of servicing the Airbnbs. At the state level, there have been repeated attempts to pass a “right-to-rent” act, similar to the “right-to-farm act,” but thus far unsuccessfully. One participant expressed a strong belief in personal property rights but also questioned whether his residential taxes, private road fees, etc. should support someone’s business enterprise in a residential area.

Discussion about COVID:

Dr. Alon Weizer (Chief Medical Officer) and Jaclyn Klein (Marketing Manager) of St. Joe’s-Chelsea, described the hospital’s efforts to provide COVID-19 vaccinations since the week before Christmas. A persistent, but improving, issue has been the inconsistent distribution from the federal level to the state level, then to hospitals and county health departments.

Currently, most communication of vaccine availability is through online medical portals and websites. Outreach to vulnerable populations, those without access to the internet or that lack a computer, is being undertaken. The Washtenaw County Health Department has created a vaccine clinic at the Eastern Michigan Convocation Center. Information is available on their website. They are also developing Pop-Up facilities and mobile units, utilizing the National Guard and FEMA. University of Michigan and Trinity Health (St. Joseph) are looking for ways to deliver vaccines to where people live. The hospitals are not limiting access, but are restricted by an inadequate supply of vaccine, but as supplies increase, they plan to increase their outreach to the public and augment their interventions with seniors, teachers, and other immune-compromised individuals. The chain pharmacies have increased their administration processes.

At this point, approximately 10% of Michigan residents have received the first dose of the vaccine or the full series of the available vaccines; approximately 1 million doses have been provided within the state of Michigan.

Participants had an opportunity to ask questions, and Dr. Weizer explained that the adverse reactions to the vaccine have been no greater than what was observed during the very large clinical trials conducted prior to the vaccines being granted Emergency Authorization Usage status and released to the public. For the most part, people have complained of minor muscle pain after the first shot. Full effectiveness is thought to begin about two weeks after the 2nd injection, but there is no knowledge as to how long the protective effects last— perhaps as long as a year. The Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are 95 % effective in decreasing illness severity and hospitalizations, however the impact of the new variant strains on this rate of effectiveness, is unknown. It is unclear how effective the vaccines are in hindering the transmission of the virus, but some preliminary data, from Israel, suggests that it does cause a drop in the number of cases of COVID-19. However, the need for continued use of social distancing, mask wearing, and hand washing will be necessary to continue to diminish the spread of COVID-19. It is believed, because of the consistent use of these public health measures, there has been minimal, if any, seasonal Influenza (the Flu) this year.

The unknown long-term negative effects of getting the vaccine were questioned. Dr. Weizer stated that this is unknown but what is known is that approximately 10% of those who contract COVID-19 suffer long-term cardiac, emotional, or neurological consequences. He said that the decision to vaccinate is the individual's decision to make. In response to a question asking if he would recommend a 16-year-old get the vaccine, he stated he personally would have his 16-year-old daughter vaccinated (currently only the Pfizer vaccine is approved for those 16 and older) if she were eligible. Dr. Weizer, stated that the more people that are vaccinated, the closer we get to “herd immunity.” Finally, he said that we will likely enter a period of “new normal” where immunization may become a yearly thing and current public health tactics/precautions become our new way of life.

The Chelsea Forum will next meet on Saturday, March 13 at 9:00 AM, via Zoom. Invitation to be sent as the meeting day approaches. It is open to the Chelsea community.

For more information go to https://sites.google.com/site/chelseamiforum/.

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