Saline City Council Opposes Short Term Rental Bill

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Saline’s City Council voiced its disapproval of a proposed change to zoning laws, that could drastically reduce municipal power over the regulation of short term residential rentals.

Council issued a letter to the Michigan State Legislature expressing an official objection to HB-4722, which if passed, would relieve local municipalities of the power to regulate the short term renting of residential units for out of towners. While Saline’s letter was purely symbolic, it did put into writing the opposition to the bill by the City Council and members of staff.

"This has been an attempt over the last two to three years, which continues to take away local authority by the controlling party of the House and the Senate. I believe that we need to do this as a way to basically allow for a way to get these bills to be done away with because it takes away our control,” Saline Mayor Pro Tem Girbach said, at the November 15 Council meeting. “This is a concern because municipalities like Ann Arbor have realized that this is a problem. Local jurisdictions should be able to control what we are, who we are and we shouldn't have the state telling local government tell us. That is the idea behind local government. We are our own government, and this legislation should not be passed."

The fear is that the cost of living in local municipalities could skyrocket without the ability to regulate short term rentals.

“I think from a municipal perspective, a community is going to always going to go against anything that preempts the rights of local citizens. We believe that those kinds of decisions are best left to individual communities on a case by case basis,” Saline City Manager Colleen O’Toole said. “A place like Saline is very different from a place like Ypsilanti, so we need to be able to make different choices and different ordinances to address the needs of our residents.”

Rep. Sarah Lightner (R – District 65), who introduced the bill, did not formally respond to a request for comment. All but one of the twelve co-sponsors are Republicans. One co-sponsor who did respond for comment said that the real core of the bill is to protect individual property rights.

“There were a number of local governments that had instituted policies that restricted individual property rights. It is well within the state legislature’s purview and responsibility to ensure that the rights of individuals are protected,” Rep. Andrew Houser (R – District 72), the only sponsor who responded to a request for comment, said in an emailed statement. “This is an issue I was made aware of when I first run for office in 2016 and have always been in favor of protecting individual property rights. The legislation ensures that local governments can still have ordinances on noise, parking, lighting, etc.’”

The bill has passed the House and will now be considered in the Michigan State Senate. Saline’s representative in the Senate, Steve Irwin, said that there is room for reform with short term rentals, but felt that HB-4722 is too blunt of a tool for the job. Irwin said that the current bill is “very myopic.”

“It misses the point that we all have property rights that need to be respected in the process. I think their bill is laser focused on the property rights of the individual that wants to turn their property into a hotel, and it completely ignores the property rights of neighbors and the rest of the community; not to mention those hoteliers that are actually complying with the normal regulations of people running a hotel,” Irwin said. “Hotels are expensive … so what investors have noticed is that they can buy single family homes, never live in them, and rent them out as if they were a freestanding hotel, that is just not taxed or regulated as such. … They function as hotels, [but] without the zoning or taxing concerns.”

That being said, Irwin added that he would be in favor of a more “narrowly tailored” bill that protected actual long term homeowners from being banned from occasionally renting their home, would be doable. The current bill, Irwin predicted, would likely not pass.

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