Houghton council to consider rezoning for short-term rental
Planning Commissions recommends denial, calling it spot zoning
HOUGHTON — The Houghton City Council will consider the proposed rezoning of a property on Canal Road for short-term rentals at a meeting in June.
On Tuesday, it received a recommendation from the Planning Commission to deny the rezoning, which would convert 18882 Canal Road from R-1 (single-family residential) to R-3 (multiple-family residential).
In his role as zoning administrator, City Manager Eric Waara sent a memo to the council evaluating if the project met the city’s criteria for rezoning.
It fell short in several spots, he said. The project was arguably not compatible with the R-1 properties in the surrounding area. Short-term rentals are permitted in R-1, but only in owner-occupied properties. Waara said the new use might also create more traffic, while taking a potential site for long-term housing off the market.
“I think they’re very-well intentioned, nice people, but I think the change is permanent … it’s precedent-setting,” Commissioner Dan Liebau said. “I think that this could apply in any neighborhood if it was approved.”
Owners Edward Gregory and Heidi Koss planned to use the property for short-term rentals. They live in Seattle; Koss grew up in Houghton.
In a letter to the city, they said their realtor had initially told them the property was in Portage Township, where a short-term rental would be permitted.
Gregory and Koss estimated they would also spend about three months of the year in Houghton, where they plan to work remotely from the building. In a letter to the city, they said they would host family gatherings and also rent it for small workshops and other business events. By providing services as a perinatal health specialist, she’d be able to fill a gap in services locally, she said.
“If we can rent to three people a month, versus a month-to-month rental that R-1 allows currently under a long-term lease, it would allow me to spend more time in the Copper Country and give more time to the community,” Koss said.
Because of the nearby single-family buildings, Planning Commission members said an R-3 designation would constitute illegal spot zoning, granting special privilege to one owner through a land use out of step with the surrounding properties.
“I’ve been around for a long time, and I’ve been trying to think if I’ve ever seen spot rezoning take place like this,” said Chair Tom Merz. “I believe the answer is no.”
The vote was 6-0. Waara, who sits on the Planning Commission, recused himself from the vote and deliberation at Merz’s request. Waara’s sister-in-law, Janelle Cone, spoke against the rezoning Wednesday from her perspective as a resident of the nearby Dakota Heights neighborhood in Portage Township.