Rules up in the Airbnb

Mayor Eric Haven makes a point about short-term rentals. Photo by Phil Custodio

Clarkston News Editor
Short-term rentals are a benefit to Clarkston, owners of Airbnbs and similar services told City Council during discussion of proposed regulations, Feb. 10.
“It’s a service to friends, family, and neighbors – a very positive thing,” said Jeff Schloff, whose Main Street house is available for short-term rentals. “I’m just a regular joe who grew up in the area. We are not big corporate money. We’re big advocates of regulations. We’re big on safety.”
However, Clarkston has a history of protecting and promoting single-family residential housing, said East Washington Street resident Carol Eberhardt.
“We decided, because it’s so small, 410 houses, that we were a bedroom community that happened to have a downtown,” Eberhardt said. “We have a right to live in peace and tranquility.”
Long-term renters stay long enough to become neighbors, unlike their short-term counterparts, she said.
“Our houses are more than close to each other,” she said. “It is not conducive in a residential neighborhood to have people there who don’t have the same vested interest of helping to preserve the neighborhood.”
Schloff said his renters are vetted and required to stay more than one night.
“We’ve met every person who stays,” he said. “It’s been a tremendous amount of fun. It’s an asset to the local community.”
Based on advice from city attorney Thomas Ryan, Clarkston’s city ordinances are considered “permissive,” said Mayor Eric Haven.
Under a permission type of zoning ordinance, uses of land are prohibited unless they are expressly permitted. Short-term rentals are not mentioned so they are technically not allowed, Haven said.
The city should have enforced the ordinance, and is not actively monitoring day-to-day city activity, Eberhardt said.
“Clearly, all these issues point to a lack of code enforcement,” she said. “We need someone assigned to monitor activity and enforce the building code. I urge city council to take a proactive approach to solve this problem.”
“We’re not doing a good job of regulating now,” agreed Council member Al Avery. “We have to be willing to enforce it.”
“It is confusing,” Haven said. “The enforcement people have difficulty enforcing something not written.”
The proposed regulations of short-term rentals, such as Airbnb, include annual registration and safety inspection; $150 annual fee; limits on number and length of stay; and not located within 2,000 feet of another approved short-term rental property.
Council member Sue Wylie said the city should consider the proposal an amendment to the zoning ordinance, requiring a properly noticed public hearing and recommendation by the Planning Commission before it can be considered by City Council.
“I feel like we’re missing something,” Wylie said. “Whatever way we go, we should amend the ordinance, and make it black and white.”
Avery asked Ryan if the city would be on solid legal ground if it decided to specifically ban short-term rentals. Ryan said he will research the issue and prepare an opinion letter.

One Response to "Rules up in the Airbnb"

  1. Cory Johnston   February 19, 2020 at 12:49 pm

    Short term rental issues aside, why is it that no one seems to know what to enforce, how to enforce, or if it can be enforced? Where is the law and legal ruling that the city zoning ordinance is “permissive” as determined by the city attorney? Do the city ordinances specifically allow rentals and if not, can there be no rentals of any kind? If brick, cement or vinyl siding is not specifically in the ordinance, does that mean they cannot be used?
    The city has a terrible record of enforcement and has for many years. While the charter specifically says enforcement is the duty of the City Manager, it is the responsibility of the Council to make sure it is done and the funding is provided to do it. As I recall, as presented by the city manager and approved by the city council, there is NO money in the current budget for enforcement other than parking.
    They have all failed to do what is required of them and one of their primary responsibilities as a government. 28 years as a city and 108 years prior to that as an incorporated Village but it seems the city government still doesn’t understand what it is supposed to do or how to do it.


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