News Story

Park Township joins list of Michigan towns banning short-term rentals

Ordinance enforcement will take effect Oct. 1, 2023, after 48 years on the books

The debate on whether an Ottawa County township will enforce a 1974 ordinance banning short-term rentals in residential areas is over. The Board of Trustees of Park Township voted Nov. 10 to lift a moratorium that had been in place for 48 years.

Park Township will now enforce the law, likely for the first time, beginning Oct. 1, 2023. Effectively, the ordinance bans homeowners from renting their property out on a short-term basis through Airbnb and similar platforms. Short-term rentals such as hotels will only be available in commercial zoning areas.

This leaves many homeowners, such as Mike Leong, in a bind. Leong and his wife live in California and bought a second home in Park Township to be able to extend their visits with relatives.

Leong says he and his wife were able to afford the home only because they rent it when they are not in town. They specifically chose the area because their real estate agent said the township allows short-term rentals. They did not find out about the ordinance until after they completed the purchase.

The board’s vote to enforce the long-dormant ban was unanimous, though there was also some deliberation on how long to extend a grace period that would give owners time to make plans for their property. One board member suggested two years, with enforcement beginning Oct. 1, 2024. The board voted unanimously, however, to start enforcement date on Oct. 1, 2023.

One of the board members said he does not represent homeowners from Baltimore, San Francisco, or other cities, but over 18,700 residents in Park Township who want quiet residential areas. Another board member said he is trying to keep the character of the township in place.

While many local residents may applaud the move, some local businesses could lose revenue from a decline in out-of-town vacationers. Some residents of New Buffalo, another lakeshore community where a similar debate has played out, say that property values may decline because of a ban.

Leong argues that enforcing the ban ignores 48 years of township history, in which the ordinance was not enforced. The fact the ban was not enforced was so well known, he says, that real estate agents believed short-term rentals to be legal. There are 365 short-term rentals in the area, he says, calling it a significant number.

“This new ban will be financially devastating to my young family, with significant sunk costs of about $65,000 in our house, a majority of our savings,” Leong told Michigan Capitol Confidential.

“Expect the same for many other str owners,” Leong added in an email. “A grassroots effort to engage the township on constructive dialogue over this past year on a mutually beneficial ordinance was totally trampled on. That dialogue and this new ban from park township is evidence they want short-term rental owners to sell their property or twist in the wind as they deal with this new environment. The township does not care about our property rights.”

Township officials did not respond to a request for comment.

House Bill 4722 in the Michigan Legislature would prevent local governments from banning short-term rentals, though it would allow for some regulation.

It passed the Michigan House of Representatives and is currently awaiting a vote in the Regulatory Reform Committee of the Michigan Senate, which will adjourn soon.

If the bill does not pass the Senate and head to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer before Dec. 31, it will have to be re-introduced when the Legislature reconvenes under new leadership in January.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.