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Public meeting to discuss short-term rentals

March 29, 2019 GMT

The text committee, a subcommittee of the Ludington Planning Commission, will hold an informal meeting with the public to discuss a proposed amendment to the city’s zoning restrictions that, if passed, would permit more short-term rentals downtown.

The public meeting will be held at 10 a.m. Saturday in the Zonta Room of the Ludington Library, 212 E. Ludington Ave.

Ludington has a zoning ordinance which currently restricts rentals of less than 28 days within city limits to only be allowed in traditional vacation establishments — hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, boutique hotels and condos.

This ordinance creates a barrier for property owners who want to short-term rent their residences, such as has been popularized by online rental services like Airbnb and VRBO, which collect fees for connecting landlords with vacationers wishing to rent their spaces.

Landlords who violate the ordinance could be charged $250 or more per infraction by the city.

A proposed amendment to the ordinance, if approved, would allow the short-term rental of residences as a special land use within Ludington’s central business and maritime commercial zoning districts, which includes the downtown area.

Property owners could apply for a special land use for their residences for a $200 application fee. Even if the proposed amendment is approved, short-term rentals would still be restricted elsewhere in Ludington.

The purpose of the meeting Saturday is for the three commissioners on the Text Committee to discuss the input they’ve received from community members regarding the proposed zoning change for the downtown area, said Planning Commissioner Nick Krieger, who is on the Text Committee. The Planning Commission has assigned the Text Committee to look into the short-term rentals issue.

The meeting Saturday is in preparation for the public hearing about the proposed amendment that will occur during the Planning Commission’s next meeting, which is 6 p.m. Wednesday, April 3 at Ludington City Hall.

The Text Committee — whose other members are Cory Rickett and Ray Madsen — on Saturday will compare notes and talk about how to present the information they have to the Planning Commission for the meeting Wednesday, Krieger explained.

“We’ll report to each other what we’ve heard from community members,” he said.

Krieger said the public can attend the meeting Saturday and speak to the Text Committee about the short-term rentals issue.

“If people show up, by all means, they can address us,” Krieger said. “I’m sure there’s a time for public comment. There’s certainly always an opportunity for people to come to make a comment. Absolutely.”

The Planning Commission has been considering the short-term rental policy change as a result of urging from property owner Ryan Reed, who has been petitioning for the rentals to be allowed within the Ludington Downtown Development Authority area, which includes the central business and maritime commercial districts.

Other Ludington landlords have asked the city to allow short-term rentals of residences to be allowed anywhere within city limits, not just in the downtown area.

Krieger said the Text Committee so far has only been tasked with researching the short-term rentals issue in regard to allowing the rentals downtown.

“Our only job right now is to think about this in terms of the central business district (and maritime commercial district), not city- wide,” he said.

Ultimately, the Text Committee and Planning Commission can only make recommendations to Ludington City Council, Krieger added. The council must decide every ordinance change.

“All we can do is recommend things,” he said. “City council has the final say.”

After the public hearing on Wednesday, April 3, the Planning Commission could make its recommendation regarding the proposed ordinance change to city council. Or the Planning Commission could decide that more public hearings on the issue are necessary, Krieger said.

Krieger said the meeting Saturday is not a formal, public hearing because the formal hearing is scheduled for Wednesday.

“We will be having many public hearings going forward,” he said. “The Planning Commission will have one or more. The council could have one or more.”