TRAVERSE CITY — Short-term renting rules in Traverse City's residential neighborhoods could be headed for change again.

City commissioners on Monday will discuss whether they would consider allowing vacation homes in residential neighborhoods, meeting documents show. These operations, already permitted elsewhere in the city, allow for longer stays than what's currently allowed in residential districts, and also have no hosting requirements. Commissioners also could ask the planning commission to take up the same question, documents show.

Short-term renting advocates requested removing hosting requirements in effect for residential districts when city officials previously considered opening up renting rules. But the possibility stirred fears of rowdy visitors with no homeowner around to restrain them.

Commissioner Roger Putman said he lives between two popular watering holes and already sees — and hears — people in a drunken and vulgar state during summer.

Hosted rentals in residential neighborhoods don't concern Putman, he said. But no host means it would be up to others to deal with a disruptive group staying at a short-term rental.

"So it puts the burden of handling those types of situations squarely on the citizens adjacent to the property and, of course, on our city police department," he said.

Ordinances already allow city homeowners in one- and two-family neighborhoods to set up tourist homes, and rent up to three rooms to two adults each for 14-consecutive-night stays.

Commissioners in January moved to open up those rules to allow for more, smaller tourist home operations — they're limited to two rooms and have a capped season length, among other restrictions.

Tourist home rules require a host to be present when renters are. Vacation homes, which the city allows in commercial, hotel resort, development and industrial districts, have no such requirement and can rent for up to 29-day consecutive stays. Commissioners on Feb. 4 voted to require vacation homes to get an inspection and license from the city.

Commissioner Brian McGillivary, also a planning commissioner, said the planning commission agreed not to tackle vacation home rules until they were through with tourist home regulation changes — and only if city commissioners asked them to. Allowing vacation homes in residential areas would be a major change and one better left to elected officials to initiate, not an appointed board, he said.

McGillivary echoed concerns about unruly renters causing problems for neighbors if no host is around.

Allowing unhosted stays could open the city up to speculative real estate buys, further driving up the cost of housing, McGillivary said. He's a real estate agent and has seen how condos command a higher price if short-term renting is allowed in them, compared to larger properties with arguably a more desirable location, he said.

Current tourist home rules require the owner to use their principal residence, while vacation homes have no such requirement.

McGillivary would rather wait to see how the new short-term renting rules work before revisiting an issue that's already been the subject of many hours of debate over two years, he said.

"Personally, I'm ready to move on, I'm ready to let this sit for a year and come back and look at it when we have new and better information," he said.

City Government Reporter