(New Buffalo, MI) - How to regulate short-term rentals in New Buffalo and limit how many exist could soon be decided.
A moratorium on short-term rentals in the city imposed in May of 2020 was recently extended to allow extra time for choosing how to best address the situation. The suspension is now due to expire on November 1st.
City Manager Darwin Watson said a proposed amendment to the zoning ordinance allowing for short-term rentals and regulations they have to meet is in the final stages of being drafted. Watson said what’s been a more than one year process started from scratch.
“As is it sits currently there is nothing in the zoning ordinance which allows for short-term rentals to exist,” Watson said.
The New Buffalo Planning Commission could recommend following a public hearing on the proposal at its next meeting on September 16th. Then, the New Buffalo City Council could start deciding the matter at its regularly scheduled meeting on September 20th.
In April, a permanent cap of 65 short-term rentals in R-1 zoning districts in the city was proposed. However, the suggested rental cap was later scrapped because it was less than the number of registered short-term rentals, which is 142.
Watson said he did not know if a cap would be contained in the zoning ordinance amendment expected to be submitted for consideration soon.
“I don’t know what the answer is going to be,” Watson said.
The number of short-term rentals has exploded here in recent years, in part, from people converting full-time residences into vacation homes during the summer. As a result, owners are receiving hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars a week in rental income depending on the size and amenities of their homes.
There’s also been an increase in complaints from residential neighborhoods about loud parties and traffic and litter from large gatherings at vacation rentals. The city struggled to get things under control because of governing enforcement lacking teeth in local codes. The moratorium was an effort to provide stability until the rules were drafted and put into the books.
“We’re fixing what should have been done four years ago,” according to Watson.
Watson said the proposal does not punish or discourage people from renting their homes but reaches a happy medium for everyone involved.
“It’s to help people to manage how you want your community to look and how you want people to be able to enjoy the quality of life throughout the community,” he said.