Council faces short-term rent enforcement dilemma

TWP PARK. — The Park Township Board faces a dilemma as it waits for the township planning commission to draft local legislation on short-term rentals: clamp down or continue to turn a blind eye.

Short-term vacation rentals are not legal in the township, according to the township’s legal adviser, but they have always been allowed to operate by default. The township has a long history of renting summer cottages on Lake Michigan.

But the proliferation of vacation rentals in residential areas has brought the question back to the fore. The township planning commission has been working on developing local legislation that would tackle the issue.

In the meantime, while regulations are being drafted, the township council must choose: start enforcing the illegality of short-term rentals under its zoning code or continue its policy of non-enforcement.

Recent official zoning enforcement complaints against short-term rentals have forced the township’s hand, and Township Manager Howard Fink has sought direction from council on how to handle these complaints.

The council began discussing the issue at a meeting on Thursday, although the council delayed the vote until March.

Township ordinances do not currently address short-term rentals, Township attorney Dan Martin explained. But since they are not explicitly permitted by the township’s zoning code, rentals are not a legal use of residential property.

“The order is written now that they are illegal,” trustee Jeff Hoekstra said. “We are a complaints-driven community. If Howard has received a complaint, I see no reason to prevent him from investigating a complaint, not so much to go out and eliminate all short-term rentals, but if it is a complaint received, shouldn’t it be a complaint investigated?

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“If we want to do that, that’s fine, but I want the board to vote on that,” supervisor Jim Gerard said. “I want the board to take a position. I don’t want to put the manager in that position. It’s too big an issue.”

Gerard said the matter would be taken up at the next board meeting on March 10 to give the public time to comment.

If the township decides to enforce its zoning ordinance and start shutting down short-term rentals next month, it could open an avalanche of complaints from anyone with an Airbnb on their route, trustee Steve worries. Spoelhof, and the canton does not. I don’t have a plan to handle this.

Many township board members said they trusted the planning commission to come up with a reasonable plan to control rentals and ease the concerns of those who live nearby. The planning commission has looked into the matter. since March 2021.

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Spoelhof said he wants to see the planning commission come up with tough regulations on vacation rentals, with swift punishment for irresponsible landlords.

“I want to be one of the hardest places for people to do short-term rentals,” Spoelhof said. “And I’d like people to say, ‘It’s not worth it’ and sell their house to a private buyer. We need to bring families back to these houses, not short-term rentals, folks.”

The trustee suggested that enforcement of short-term rental issues could be paid for with a license fee that owners of short-term rental properties would have to pay to the township.

Clerk Skip Keeter also offered his support for a licensing system.

Gerard assured residents, many of whom had come to complain about nearby short-term rental properties, that the council was working on a solution.

“The talking point tonight is to say we’re hearing from people,” Gerard said. “We know there is a problem. It’s a huge problem. We have to solve it as a council.”

An ice-covered Lake Michigan rests Friday, Feb. 12, 2022, at Holland State Park.

The Park Township Planning Commission continues to debate local regulations for short-term rentals at its monthly town hall meetings, held on the fourth Thursday of the month.

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At the same meeting, Park Township Council approved a motion to make the Park Township Fire Chief a full-time position.

The township hopes the full-time chief will be able to create long-term plans for the fire service as the township grows, including plans for implementing water rescue capabilities for the service. township fire department. The Chief will also respond to day duty calls, which are becoming increasingly difficult to staff.

Board members also got a first look at how consultant McKenna is preparing its three proposals for the former Park Township airport land at 152nd Avenue and Ottawa Beach Road.

The old Park Township Airport on Friday, February 12, 2022, located at 1269 Ottawa Beach Road.  The township board discussed the future of the airport land at a recent meeting.

All three alternatives should all include features that received broad support during public consultation sessions last summer and fall: nature conservation, walking and cycling trails, picnic areas, restrooms, a memorial for veterans, and an area to fly RC planes and drones.

An alternative would require an aviation museum and event space, while another would include a smaller-scale “aviation wall” commemorating the airport’s history.

Two of the proposals will have sports complexes, one being a large pickleball complex, the other a multi-sports complex.

With input from the township council on Thursday – which included skepticism that an aviation museum would support enough to be sustainable – the consultant will develop plans for the three proposals, which will come back to council this spring and presented to residents for their comments.

— Contact journalist Carolyn Muyskens at and follow her on Twitter at @cjmuyskens.

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