Harbor Springs looking to adjust short-term rental licensing limits

The app Vrbo, which allows vacationers to find short-term rentals to stay in during trips, is shown on a cell phone Monday, June 14, 2021.
The app Vrbo, which allows vacationers to find short-term rentals to stay in during trips, is shown on a cell phone Monday, June 14, 2021.

HARBOR SPRINGS — To help mitigate the number of short-term rentals applying for licenses in Harbor Springs, the city’s planning commission is working to come up with a system to determine how many people will receive licenses.

While the council decided to have the planning commission make adjustments to their proposed plan, the council passed a moratorium at its Nov. 21 meeting, capping the number of licenses that will be issued for this upcoming year. A total of 61 licenses — the number issued in 2022 — will be made available in single-family housing districts, while remaining unlimited in all other districts.

Those with current licenses will be given priority for the upcoming year.

Short-term rentals have sparked concerns in multiple communities about a surplus of short-term rentals taking over available affordable housing options. Tourist destinations, like Harbor Springs, tend to have disproportionate numbers of short-term rental options.

More:Michigan thrives on tourism. Are short-term rentals pushing out long-term residents?

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During public comment, people both for and against short-term rentals made their case about whether or not the city should move forward with reducing the number of short-term rental licenses issued in single-family housing districts.

One resident said she thought short-term renters are leading to the community "being eroded."

“It’s becoming mini hotels all around, we don’t have a community anymore,” one of the residents said during public comment. “We elect you. You live in our neighborhoods; you represent our neighborhoods. You’re all we have to help us maintain our community in our neighborhoods and not give them away to investors.”

The plan brought to city council would limit single-family housing districts to a total of 40 licenses.

The plan would require license applications to come in at the start of the year instead of processing them as they come in. If there are more than 40 license applications for single-family homes, there would be a scoring system to determine who would earn the license.

Some suggested scoring systems would be based on how recently someone may have had the property inspected, the number of smoke alarms in the house, whether or not they have on-site parking, and more.

Another resident, Elizabeth Koenen, said she and her husband bought a house in Harbor Springs after having a life-long goal to move back to the area. She and her husband bought a house and were subsidizing expenses by offering it as a short-term rental while two of her children were in college.

“If you limit it, then you are taking other people’s dreams away and this is something we have been working on for a very long time,” she said. “I don’t agree with the changes, and if there isn’t an issue — and it truly sounds like there isn’t one — then I think it should stay the same.”

Robin Johnson, a short-term rental owner, said she doesn’t think the city gave enough warning about the potential to change the short-term rental rules.

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When discussing the issue, the council said they think the plan should be to limit the license numbers to current license holders. A total of 61 licenses are offered in single-family residential districts.

The planning commission meets at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 15 at city hall.

— Contact education reporter Karly Graham at kgraham@petoskeynews.com. Follow her on Twitter at @KarlyGrahamJRN.

This article originally appeared on The Petoskey News-Review: Harbor Springs looking to adjust short-term rental licensing limits