Local News

Two Councilmen Targets of Recall Attempt

(New Buffalo, MI) - An attempt is being waged to remove two New Buffalo City Council members before their four-year terms expire.


The recall petitions against John Humphrey and Brian Flanagan were filed April 19 in the Berrien County Clerk’s Office by New Buffalo resident Michael J. Davis. Humphrey also serves as mayor, a position the city council elects from the five-member governing body.


Reasons cited for recalling Humphrey and Flanagan are their votes on November 23 in favor of an ordinance prohibiting new short-term rentals in R1, R2, and R3 zoning districts in the city.


Another reason for recalling Humphrey is that he instructed a police officer during a public meeting on March 21 of last year to remove an individual while she was speaking during her allotted time reserved for public comment.


A clarity hearing is scheduled at 1 p.m. on May 3 in the Berrien County Administrative Building to determine if the language in the petitions is clear.


If the language is approved, Berrien County Chief Deputy Clerk Sheila Reitz said the petitions against each elected official would require 219 valid signatures to be on the ballot for a recall election in November.


Humphrey and Flanagan, who were elected to their first terms in November of 2020, would face opposition.


Humphrey said he likes their chances of surviving a recall election because they defeated their opponents by about a two-to-one margin while campaigning heavily on curbing the growth in short-term rentals. He also said most people, except for Davis and a few others behind the recall, do not live in New Buffalo, and only residents are eligible to vote.


“Everything I’m doing, in my opinion, is in the best interests of the people who live here. It is what it is,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey also said the ordinance only prevents more short-term rentals in the three residentially zoned districts, and short-term rental owners with permits from the city are allowed to continue operating.


“There will still be plenty of rentals here.  We’re just creating an environment where residents and the rental communities can operate peacefully and respect each other’s quality of life,” Humphrey said.

The ordinance especially angered people who purchased and started renovating homes into short-term rentals before discovering they couldn’t get a permit for such use. Some long-term owners of short-term rentals were also distraught from being forced out of business when late in applying for an operating permit under the new guidelines.


The ordinance responded to growing complaints from residents about things like noise during parties at short-term rentals. Humphrey said neighborhoods were becoming too saturated with homes once lived in year-round converted into short-term rentals.


“I think the way it’s set up now, we’ll have much balance to allow the city to get some harmony back like before,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey also said people opposed to the ordinance “care only about themselves” and not the city's future, which has fewer full-time residents.


Humphrey blamed the population loss on single-family homes being turned into short-term rentals and short-term rentals, contributing to housing prices going beyond the reach of young families wanting to move here.


“We need to create opportunity for people to be able to live here,” Humphrey said.

Humphrey believes he acted within the rules governing the conduct of citizens during city council meetings.

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