Rental rules passed

Controversy continues over short-term tenants

Deborah Mulcahey

MARQUETTE — All rentals, including short-term rentals, will be subject to a new ordinance passed by the Chocolay Township Board on Monday.

Board trustees voted 5-2 in favor of the ordinance with Judy White and Mark Maki voting against the measure.

Several heated exchanges took place during the meeting, which was attended by dozens of residents and seemingly brought to a close what has been a contentious issue in the municipality for about a decade.

Around 10 residents spoke on the matter during public comment, the majority of whom voiced opposition to the township allowing short-term rentals, several who were supportive of allowing the activity in the township, and others who questioned why more traditional long-term rentals were being included in the ordinance at all.

Those opposing short-term rentals overwhelmingly said the practice changes the character of a residential neighborhood. They cited concerns ranging from renters causing fire hazards, littering on the beach, trespassing on neighboring properties, unleashed dogs and potential septic and well water issues.

Trustee Maki, who also spoke during public comment, called the measure a “short-term rental non-ordinance,” saying it avoids the issues that short-term rentals bring, such as “added congestion, health and safety factors and the issues of mixing commercial activities into what are supposed to be free from other uses, quiet single-family neighborhoods.”

Deborah Mulcahey, one of several Lakewood Lane residents who gathered 187 petition signatures opposing short-term rentals in 2017, said the ordinance does not reflect the will of township residents. The issue, she said, was never about long-term rentals.

“We who wrote this petition to you said we have no concern about the long-term tenants,” Mulcahey told the board. “Why would we? They contribute to our community. Who are you protecting? Are you protecting us as individuals or are you protecting individuals who make money and corporations, ignoring the requests of the public? It’s a tribe mentality; you just go along to get along.”

The ordinance will go into effect June 13. It requires property owners who wish to rent out their properties for a fee for durations of one day or more to provide their own personal and management company information — including email addresses, phone numbers and alternate contact numbers — in the event the primary contact is unavailable to respond to calls from police, fire, emergency and other township personnel.

The proposed language would also require the owner or agent to maintain a current list of rental occupants, which must be presented to police, fire, emergency or other government personnel upon request.

The property owner would also be required to provide to every tenant or renter a copy of a document that details township rules and ordinances.

Failure to comply with the ordinance would result in a $250 fine for each violation, with three violations resulting in the revocation of the rental permit for the property for a year.

Bruce Ward, who owns four long-term rental units in the township, told the board that the ordinance is “an overreach” that does not provide property owners an opportunity to address ordinance violations before they are cited and fined.

“It is my understanding the ordinance is far reaching and includes ordinances already in effect with home ownership within the township,” Ward said. “Landlords should be given time to correct the violation in cooperation with the township.”

Township resident Pat Black spoke in support of the ordinance and short-term rentals.

“I understand that this is about ‘not in my backyard,'” Black said. “My point is that it is not going to go away, and wouldn’t you rather know who the people are that are renting these properties out, how you find them, and they are responsible for how people act? I, myself, might not live in that house down the road anymore and it’s a great place for people to come up and enjoy, and will I make a few dollars, absolutely. However, I would expect that I would have to come to the township office, I would have to fill out a permit of some sort giving you information on who I am, what we’re doing, where are we living, how you find me if I am not there. This is a new part of tourism, people, this is not the only place in the world that’s dealing with this. They deal with this all over. It’s simple. It is about accountability.”