12 Dec 2016

Online vacation rentals

Submitted by admin

TRAVERSE CITY — Praise, scorn and probing questions abound in the city over tourist homes and how they're regulated.

Hosts who rent rooms through sites like Airbnb.com stand on one side pointing to mostly positive experiences with guests. They also say the extra income helps them keep their homes, and their neighbors seldom, if ever, complain about their visitors.

Squaring off against them are city residents who object to the commercialization of single-family neighborhoods. They worry about tourists posing a nuisance by using homes as party pads and taking up parking spaces. An influx of outsiders staying in revolving-door rentals could shatter the serenity and stability the city's neighborhoods once offered.

Planning commissioners heard a snippet of the debate at a recent public hearing and added to it themselves. They want a committee to consider what, if anything, to do about a 17-year-old tourist home ordinance that hasn't kept pace with online renting. City planners also posed the question of whether to maintain, cut or double a current 1,000-foot spacing requirement between tourist homes.

Commissioner Janet Fleshman said the online bookings create a financial benefit for owners, but they also raise numerous questions. Among them are whether the city should limit how many nights per year rooms can be booked and whether places built for workforce housing would be converted into de facto hotels. She wants commissioners to study the issue through a number of sessions and seek more public engagement.