City takes aim at Airbnbs

BY PHIL CUSTODIO
Clarkston News Editor
Interest has soared about Airbnbs in the City of the Village of Clarkston, both for and against, and city officials are looking for rules on it.
The city receives calls regularly from people interested in buying a residence and turning it into an Airbnb, said City Manager Jonathan Smith at Monday’s Planning Commission hearing.
Airbnb, Inc. is an online company working to broker short-term rentals mostly between homeowners and tourists. City ordinances regulate hotels, motels, and bed-and-breakfast establishments, limiting them to commercial zones, but not short-term rentals in residential areas. According to the city attorney, if something is not specifically allowed in the ordinances, it is not allowed, Smith said.
“The response has been, we’ll see how that holds up in court,” the city manager said. “If this is something we don’t want, we should call it out.”
Other phone calls are from residents asking about Airbnbs currently operating in their neighborhoods, Smith said.
“There are two, three, maybe four in the city – they’re just doing it,” he said. “They’re renting it out on a short term basis. I agree, I would like to see something addressing this proactively.”
A search for Clarkston locations on Airbnb.com Monday night included three entries for entire houses specifically located in the City of the Village of Clarkston.
The Planning Commission voted 3-0, Dec. 2, to ask City Council for direction on a short-term rental ordinance, such as whether to allow them at all or not.
“It would be good to know if we are on the right path,” said Rich Little, chair.
An ordinance could require Airbnbs and other short-term rentals to be in an owner-occupied house, registered, inspected, with smoke detectors, and limited days they can be rented, Little said.
Council members Al Avery, Joe Luginski, David Marsh, and Mayor Eric Haven were in attendance as members of the public, but did not provide specific direction at the planning commission meeting.
“Not speaking for the council, but I’m interested in it,” Haven said at the meeting.
The issue came up recently during discussion of the city Master Plan, so the commission has already collected information on what other communities do about it, said Sue Wylie, member of the Planning Commission and City Council.
Little said he will check with the city attorney to clarify whether lack of ordinance on short-term rentals means it’s allowed or not.