By Jim Newell
The Lake Orion Village Council approved the first reading of an ordinance amendment that would effectively ban short-term home rentals in the village.
That’s good news to some residents who live next to Airbnb rental homes.
Over the past few summers, many residents have attended village council meetings to complain about the noise, traffic, trespassing and other problems from Airbnb guests.
Ordinance 26.98 is an amendment to the village’s Zoning Ordinance to amend Article 13, General Provisions, to provide for Section 13.31 – Short-Term Rentals and to define and prohibit short-term rentals as a commercial use in residential areas and residences.
Motels, resorts, campgrounds, transitional houses operated by a charitable organization, group homes such as nursing homes and adult foster-care homes, substance-abuse rehabilitation clinics, mental-health facilities and other similar healthcare-related facilities, and bed and breakfast facilities with limited special land uses are excluded from the amendment.
The village council scheduled a public hearing and a second reading and possible adoption of the ordinance for its Oct. 14 meeting, beginning at 7:30 p.m. at Village Hall, 21 E. Church St.
The Lake Orion Planning Commission voted 5-1 during its meeting on Sept. 3 to recommend the ordinance amendment to the village council for approval.
The ordinance amendment would prohibit Airbnb/short-term rentals under 30 days, said village Manager Joe Young.
Village Councilmember Ray Hammond sits on the planning commission and made the motion to forward the ordinance to the council.
“I’ve struggled with this from the beginning. I’m very much in favor of private property rights,” Hammond said. “But I think there is an old saying that keeps coming back in my mind: the right for you to swing your fists stops at the end of (another’s) nose.”
Currently, short-term rentals are not regulated and there is no permit process in the village for Airbnbs, Young said, adding that the planning commission has looked into permitting requirements.
However, if the amendment is adopted, “pre-existing non-conforming property uses” would be “grandfathered” in and could continue to operate, but would be subject to new regulations and could lose the ability to operate if violations persist, Young said.
Hammond added that he has seen residents “break down in tears” as they related their stories at council meetings. “And it was very moving.”
Resident Dennis Simms said he and his family have had problems with guests at the Airbnb next door to his home on Bellevue, including people coming to his house and trying to enter.
“I wish I could do something beyond complaining my frustrations. I’m strongly for this ordinance, obviously. We have to do something,” Simms said. “I’ve got new neighbors every week. I don’t know who they are. I have to lock my doors for the first time in 28 years.”
“I’ve been there 28 years. Now, I have to lock everything, I have to watch everything,” Simms said. “I can’t enjoy my home anymore. This ordinance isn’t soon enough.”
Jeff Schloff owns a home on Westpointe Drive that he uses as a short-term rental house. He told the planning commission that he believes renting out his home is “completely legal under private property rights.”
Schloff added that he’s “run into two neighbors on both sides who violently disagree with the model. It’s good to see everybody talking calmly tonight, professionally, not cussing.”
Schloff said that he and his tenants have faced harassment from residents neighboring his property.
“I don’t know if it’s a problem with short-term rentals or an issue of entitlement of homeowners that are faced with some changing things, changing (business) models,” Schloff said.
“I’ve struggled with it, as a Libertarian-minded person. I appreciate your private property rights to do what you want, but the bottom line is you can’t offend your neighbors. And I see that many, many neighbors have come into this building and complained, very emotionally, on this issue,” Hammond said. “Most of us have a good chunk of our savings tied up in our homes.”
During the March 25 village council meeting, Schloff said short-term rentals are not a new phenomenon and most rentals in Lake Orion are for two or three days, with some longer stays for a week to a month and most rentals are family-oriented clients. He also said he has 15 bookings for the 2019 season, according to council-approved minutes from the meeting.