Chocolay Township board must protect community

We are opposed to Chocolay Township’s proposed zoning ordinance 34-19-03 and rental ordinance 68 that would allow unregulated short-term rentals throughout the Township.

Please come and share your thoughts at public comment at 5:30 p.m. Monday, before the township board takes a final vote on these proposals.

You might wonder how you missed the township’s proposals to drastically change zoning for the entire community. The township’s public notice in March 2019 did not include the term “short-term rentals.”

When concerns about short-term rentals were raised in March 2015, Planning Commissioner Bohjanen responded that, “… there is no citizen petition urging action …” So in 2017 a Petition, with 180 plus signatures, was submitted to the township’s board and planning commission, with Mr. Bohjanen as the supervisor, in which property owners requested that short-term rentals not be allowed on Lakewood Lane.

We have had the experience of dealing with short-term rentals and do not like them as neighbors. We want visitors to have fun but not at the expense of the residents in this community. Those that visit our lakeshore properties typically do not concern themselves with being good neighbors. The noise from parties, fireworks and barking dogs is not conducive to those who rise to go to work, school or like to sleep in peace. Residents are more likely to control pets, campfires and traditionally limit the frequency of large gatherings. Short-term renters do not. And five short-term renters often turn into many more.

Residents don’t typically leave large burnt logs or garbage that tends to wash into the water or down the beach for someone to injury themselves on. Short-term tenants have. Dealing with these type of issues with residents is easier than dealing with the everchanging number of different short-term renters.

Though we don’t have children in our homes we want to know who our neighbors are and expect those with children might be more concerned than we are.

The Marquette County 2014 fire hazard rating shows areas of the township at fire risk. Our properties are at a very high risk for serious wildfires. Even if short-term renters were as conscious as residents about the dangers of campfires or the use of fireworks in the dunes they do not have the same vested interested in protecting our homes/properties. Dune grass is highly flammable.

The township’s volunteer fire department doesn’t have a viable water source for areas in the township and they typically can not get hoses to dune fires.

The majority of residents in Chocolay Township do not have either public water or sewer. We are dependent on well water and septic systems. We have witnessed failed septic systems when numerous people occupy a short-term rental. We do not know what the failed septic does to the neighboring wells.

The cost to buy property becomes prohibitive when single-family residential properties are allowed to be used as short-term rentals. Housing is lost to an individual or family that wants to live in the township because they are competing with a commercial business to buy a home. Yes short-term rentals are commercial business.

An increase in short-term rentals in the township decreases population, which decreases the state and federal monies the township receives, the number of community volunteers and children in our wonderful Cherry Creek Elementary School.

The township will not require the owners of short-term rentals to carry insurance. So who will pay for the loss of our homes, the established woods on our properties or the actual costs for those injured or if someone dies from a fire for actions attributed to a short-term rental?

The township will not charge a rental registration fee. The residents will subsidize the rental process including associated police, fire and garbage services.

The township board members are paid to protect the public health, safety and welfare of the entire township. The petition against short-term rentals on Lakewood was submitted to demand that the township protect us.

We wonder why the township would sink so low to ignore not only our request, but disregard the township’s 2015 Master Plan, the recommendations in 2018 and 2019 from the Marquette County Planning Commission and the surveys of residents.

Special interest groups should not dictate what is best for us or the rest of our community.

Editor’s note: Deborah Mulcahey and June Rydholm are residents of Chocolay Township.